Mindfulness Mini Series 5 - What could be stopping us from building mindful relationships
It’s all well and good talking about living mindfully but it can often be difficult to do. However, if we can become more aware of what could be hindering our ability to be mindful we can try to actively work through these. In turn allowing us to appreciate and enjoy the present and importantly the people around us.
We have interactions every day, social and otherwise. But how often do we really listen and take notice of what is going on? When we are mindful of others we are genuinely interested in them. We gladly give our time to them. We aren’t just hearing words or planning how we are going to respond. We actively try to understand what the other person is saying, their perspective, their experiences. We open up more freely if we feel we are being properly listened to and understood. Right? All of which encourage mindful interactions.
Hearing and listening are two very different things. We can hear without making any effort. But listening requires focus and attention. It’s a conscious choice. I have a few friends who I know actively listen to me and I really try to do the same in my every day interactions. But it doesn’t always happen. We can, however, learn to be effective listeners when we need to be.
So what barriers can get in the way of having mindful interactions?
Noise, phones, feeling uncomfortable etc impede our ability to listen effectively. What message can this send to the person that is speaking? That we are bored or disinterested? We might think we can concentrate on what we are doing and listen to the other person at the same time but we will definitely miss important points. I’ve done it myself and I’ve also been on the receiving end of it. Ultimately we will miss meaningful information and affect the rapport we could be building.
This is when someone is searching for the facts of what we are saying, rather than listening to the whole message. I have definitely had conversations like this, where the other person is bombarding me with questions just to satisfy their own curiosity. Fact finders can often focus on what is not right, looking for imperfections, things they don’t agree with and in the process miss the gist of the whole conversation.
Many of us are waiting for a pause in conversation so that we can say what we want to say. Planning our response whilst the other person is still talking. We’ve all done it. But by doing so we aren’t actually listening because we are focusing on what we want to say and therefore miss so much.
If we don’t agree with what the other person is saying it’s very easy to just switch off and not fully engage in trying to understand their perspective. We may make assumptions, stereotypes and ultimately stop fully listening. But if we listen, even when we don’t agree, we may gain more of an insight into the other persons perspective and actually learn something.
Imposing own personal view:
This is often interlinked to being judgemental. When we think our own view point is the right one and close off to others views we may try to impose our own advice. But in doing so we aren’t listening to the core message. It can be difficult to hold fire but we must in order to connect on a deeper level.
It can be really easy to feel like you want to solve a friends problems and jump in with solutions before they have finished. We are searching for what we feel are the answers. I’m guilty of this myself and it comes from a place of love but in doing so we don’t see the whole picture. This isn't to say we can't offer possible solutions but we mustn't be too eager.
Effective questioning goes hand in hand with good listening skills –
Articulating and clarifying:
Repeating what someone has said to us ensures we’ve heard them correctly and lets them know that we have been listening. I'm not talking about repeating verbatim as this would be a bit odd but summarising their points. It make them feel heard and shows that we want to understand. This also allows us time to reflect on what has been said and formulate our own answer.
Trying to be curious about who we are speaking to. Just because we don’t think we have anything in common with them doesn’t mean that we can’t have conversation. By being curious and asking questions we can really get to the bottom of what they are saying and learn something new.
Always allow for silent pauses and breaks in the dialogue, even if they feel a little uncomfortable. I’m trying to learn to do this more as silences can feel awkward and the tendency is to try to fill them with words. But by welcoming silences we are allowing the speaker time to gather their thoughts whilst giving ourselves time to focus and think about our answer.
These listening and questioning tips can encourage a much more interesting and meaningful conversation where we are as fully present as we can be. I am actively trying to improve myself because ultimately these changes can boost our relationships and therefore our lives.