Listening takes practice

I have a book called “Five good minutes with the one you love” (Brantley & Millstine). I like its format of “100 short practices to deepen & renew your love everyday” put in a very simple and easy way. They give a short description of a topic regarding relationships and then give some suggested steps towards improving and/or renewing it. I have read and played with a few of them and find they can be used in most of our relationships. So far, from the ones I have read, the common theme I see is to be mindful or present with who you are with. Basic, right?

However, this is easier said than done. For example, how many of you while on the phone are practicing multi tasking? While talking, are your checking emails, organizing, cleaning the house, driving or making something in the kitchen? How about the classic of talking to someone and at the same time looking who’s on Facebook or Skype to talk/chat with? How about talking face to face (novel, I know) and your still not completely there; thinking about your to do list, bored, frustrated with the topic or formulating a response before completely “hearing” theirs?

Are we really listening while we are multi tasking or carrying on 3 conversations at once? Are we sometimes craving to be heard at a deeper level, but do not fully listen ourselves? Could we learn more about someone by listening closer?

Their practice on this subject, number 35, is titled “affectionate listening”.

They offer – How often is your attention elsewhere when your partner is speaking?
A deeper connection and more joy are close at hand when you replace inattention with affectionate listening.

They give these steps to practice:

1. When your partner is speaking to you, notice where your attention is. Notice also any feelings of impatience or mental “stories” that may be going through your head. Acknowledge them and let them go.
2. Take a moment to breath mindfully for a few breaths.
3. Set your intention. For example: “May I be more present for him”
4. As he speaks to you, focus mindfully on the sounds. Notice tone, pace, and volume, as well as meaning.
5. Look more closely at him. If you are on a phone, close your eyes and picture him.
6. As you listen, let gentle feelings of warmth and affection flow within you.
7. Let attention and affection guide your own words in response.

I like this practice as it brings us back to connection, being present with someone. I think if we were more present, that phone call might not need to last as long so you would not feel like filling the “space” doing something else at the same time. Of course, if you not able to be present in the moment or only have a certain amount of time to be present, communicating that to someone is just as important. For me, this builds relationships in a clear, conscious way.

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