Listening Mindfully Even When it Feels Like it Might Kill You

Sometimes the most difficult, most generous act of Mindfulness you can carry out in a day is to listen fully to another human being. It’s especially difficult when that person doesn’t seem to have anything to say that is inherently interesting to you. And even more challenging when that person speaks in a halting, sometimes convoluted way.

The struggle is to turn down the distracting, diverting thoughts in your head. These thoughts are bubbling around because what you are hearing is so predictable or deadly dull that it seems like the experience of full-focus listening might actually kill you. Certainly it feels physically painful.

But, with practice, you build up your listening muscles. This listening strength includes the power to stay focused intensely on what that other person is actually saying and also why they might feel the need to say it to you at this particular moment. Listening strength is also the endurance to hang on, to listen patiently, even encouragingly for 10, or even 20 minutes at a time.

But your active engagement with this person is a gift and maybe one that might be reciprocated by your counter-party feeling understood, enabling them to clarify their own thinking, to open up further, to perhaps drop some inhibitions and become more trusting and closer to you.

Topics: Mindful listening, listening mindfully, listening skills