I was flipping through channels on TV and came across a psychologist doing an audience Q & A. Someone asked him for tips on better communication with loved ones.
The psychologist’s answer was simple (but not easy). “Listen longer than you want to,” he said.
Start with Listening
I’m often told I’m a good listener. But I’ll be honest, there are times I don’t want to listen. Usually, this happens when I’ve heard the same thing before—sometimes many times before—from the same person.
You’ve probably been there too. Even the most compassionate, skilled listeners reach a point when having the same conversation again feels futile.
But why not have the conversation again? It doesn’t take more time to hear something you’ve already heard than it does to hear something new.
Listening to someone struggle with something we (and they) are unable to change can make us feel inadequate. We may wonder why they keep coming to us with this problem. If talking it out hasn’t helped them get past it by now, what will be different this time?
There’s a point at which no amount of listening will make a dent in improving communication. Or is there?
Communication is Connection
One definition of communication is the exchange of information. It implies a connection between two or more parties who want to give and receive information. When we speak of communicating with people close to us, we’re usually interested in more than information.
When we talk about better communication, we’re usually talking about connecting on an emotional level. We want to understand intentions, values, and things that are difficult to describe using words alone.
Yet, we use words because words are the best tools we have for communicating. When we’ve heard the words and nothing has changed, though—we neither understand more nor feel understood—it may be time to think beyond the words.
Listening longer than we want to does not just mean hearing sounds. It doesn’t only mean being silent while words are spoken. It means being present and tuning in to those words and the true message the speaker is trying to impart.
Listening this way isn’t easy. We need to suspend our own egos and check impulses to be defensive or have answers. And often, we need to sit with impatience when we realize we can’t fix someone else. If we look closely, we may find it’s ourselves we’ve lost patience with.
And sometimes, if the other person isn’t a good communicator, there may be nothing more we can do to improve the connection.
Meditation for Better Communication
Want to practice communicating better? Learn to meditate!
Meditation teaches us to be present, suspend, the ego, and tune in—the very things we need to do well if we want to be good communicators. It also teaches us to listen and to pay attention not just to words, but to emotions and other messages beyond words.
Meditation also helps us stay quiet the mind so we can stay present, even when the connection isn’t happening the way we’d like it to.
So yes, if you want to be better at communicating, listen more than you want to. And aim to empty your mind so you can be present while you do it.
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Hi, I’m Maria. I created Yoga Circles for you if you want to delve more deeply into the philosophy, practice, and life-changing effects of yoga. I’m also a writer and editor who helps small business owners, wellness professionals, teachers, and authors publish books, develop marketing strategies, and connect with readers, clients, and students. Visit my website (link below) for more about that. I’d love to hear from you!