Mindfulness: Decrease Your Stress with Mindful Listening
Learn Seven Steps for Better Communication
by Debbie Lyn Toomey
In college, many moons ago, I had an English professor who challenged me and said, “listen to your listening.” He said this on the first day of class wearing his summer straw hat and Hawaiian shirt. Professor Nelson was witty, authentic, and a lover of life. He captivated the class as he stood up on top a desk and recited his favorite butterfly poem. When he spoke, everyone listened. It was he who talked to us about the importance of effective communication. To my surprise, listening was the most important part of communication. I didn’t understand what he meant until years later.
Exchange of Energy
As I grew older, I realized he was right! Communication is not just about talking. It’s more than that. It has to do with the exchange of energy and words (said and unsaid) between the parties involved. When the mind, body, and spirit are engaged and when the parties involved are fully present for the other, mindful communication happens. Languages such as verbal, body, and intuition are part of our expression. The more we pay attention and listen to all these aspects of expression, the better.
With so many forms of languages available to us, why is it so difficult to communicate? Perhaps it’s because we have gotten into the habit of thinking we are too busy and feel that we can multitask while someone is talking to us. Maybe it’s because our attention span has dwindled to a mere 8 seconds. Or maybe, we are just so stressed that although we are hearing what the other is saying, we are not comprehending or remembering what was just said. Is being an irritating “squeaky wheel” the only way to be seen and heard these days? I hope not.
On the Go
Although our lives were supposed to be made easier by modern technology, it hasn’t happened. The level of stress that Americans live with has sky rocketed. We are constantly on the go and when we are not busy, we feel guilty. We feel like we always have to be doing something worthwhile with our time.
Source of Stress
Professionals in my corporate wellness training programs complain that communication is one of their sources of frustration and stress. This problem has caused feelings of resentment, staff-splitting, wasted time on valuable projects, and costly mistakes. Poor communication is confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be a contributor of workplace stress.
Invest a Few Minutes
One of the best ways to take care of the communication problem is to invest in a few minutes of mindful communication. Here are four ways mindful communication can benefit us.
1. Show appreciation to the other person by fully allowing the other to speak
2. Prevent misunderstanding that can lead to errors or hard feelings
3. Save time by knowing what is being said so that the right action can be taken
4. Foster positivity by modeling respect for each other
Although communication has become a big problem during our lifetime there are ways to improve it by listen to your listening. Here’s are the seven steps for better communication:
1. STOP: Create the intention of fully listening to the individual
2. LOOK: Be curious and watch his/her body language
3. LISTEN: Listen to what is being said and unsaid. Listen to what your gut instinct is telling you
4. WAIT: Allow the individual to finish his/her thought or sentence before you answer
5. SENSE: Notice your body language. Adjust yourself so that you are fully face-to-face with the individual
6. SUMMARIZE: Repeat what you just heard to make sure you heard correctly
7. REPEAT: Repeat 1-6 as necessary until the message has been fully accepted and received
Mindful communication is a skill that is worth cultivating to be successful in life. The more you practice it the easier it gets. To learn more about mindful communication and ways it can enhance your work and life, contact me at [email protected].