The other day, I was having a conversation with my boyfriend when I later realized that I wasn’t conversing at all. I was simply nodding along as he droned on about the stock market. My mind began to wander as I thought about that funny comment my friend made the other day, the new initiative we are putting forward at work, or that I needed to call my grandpa to check in.
Throughout all these thoughts, I was in full bobblehead mode.
Next thing you know the conversation was over, and although he wasn’t mad, I could tell that he was disheartened that I couldn’t find it in me to really listen to the “thrilling” stock market trends. I’ve also been on the other end of these conversations – like when I was trying to tell him about the Kim/Kanye drama that happened not too long ago.
Jokes aside, it isn’t a great feeling when you know someone is not listening to you. If stocks are important to him, I want to learn and listen more to what he has to say. However, the timeless question still remains . . . how do I control my wandering mind? If you relate to this in any way, you are in the right place.
How to practice mindful listening
If you’ve made it this far, it means that 1. You have noticed this behaviour within yourself and, 2. You want to do something about it. The good news is that awareness is pretty much the key to this issue. Knowing that you struggle with keeping your mind in one place will make it a lot easier to notice your patterns and fix them as they arise.
When someone is about to share something, prepare yourself by mentally setting an intention to be present throughout the conversation. Of course, if you are in the middle of juggling a million different tasks, it is always better to just ask if you can chat later. Otherwise, it is really as simple as this: when you notice that you are thinking about other things, make an intentional effort to clear your brain space, and gently focus your attention back on the person you are talking to.
You can’t expect that your brain will be 100% clear of any thought that may pop in. But recognizing them will make it a lot easier to release and bring back your focus. The more you practice, the easier it will get. Self-awareness really is the answer to this problem.
With that being said, Mindful Magazine released an issue through which they shared the HEAR practice.
THE HEAR PRACTICE
H – HALT: HALT what you’re currently doing and focus on whoever is speaking to you (if you are unable to halt, just ask to chat later)
E – ENJOY: In preparation for what is about to be communicated, ENJOY a breath of fresh air and set your intentions – choose to be present as you receive this information.
A – ASK – Do you really know what this person is talking about? ASK yourself this question, and if the answer is no, ASK for clarification.
R – REFLECT (or RECOUNT): To show that you were actively listening, REFLECT/RECOUNT back what you heard.
Don’t forget to provide other social cues to show you are listening. This includes eye contact and reacting with some words or commentary. If all else fails, and your mind still gets the best of you, don’t stress. I suggest taking a more upfront approach and saying something like “I’m so sorry, I totally missed that because I was thinking of XYZ, can you tell me again?”
If you really care about this person, honesty and genuineness are always a better approach. If you don’t care about this person, initiate plan smile & nod (totally kidding).
What are your thoughts? Do you have any other tips on how to be more present in a conversation? Would love to hear what you think in the comments below!