Your mind is wandering, thinking of something to respond. Now it’s your turn to speak. But you missed the point of the person you’re talking with — conversation’s getting nowhere.
We usually do that — thinking about something else while having a conversation. We used to believe it’s fine, but it’s not. It’s being unfair to the person in front of you, even worse, to yourself.
Listen and Pay Attention
When you’re thinking about something else, you’re not listening at all. Either you’re preparing for your rebuttal or wanting to escape. It could be your problem bothering you, or the new message in your inbox, or your next task, whatever. So how can we stop it?
When I started exercising mindfulness, I realized how cluttered my mind was — I wasn’t fully paying attention to what my friends are saying; I was preparing for my response. I was more concerned of what I’m going to say, instead of absorbing their insights and understanding their perspectives.
Back then, I usually get lost in the moment when a friend was talking. In fact, I never realize I wasn’t paying attention at all. I was only thinking about myself, impatient to express my narratives.
Author Stepehen Covey puts it this way: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
The challenge, of course, is bypassing our default actions — which is not paying attention — and become consistent in mindful listening. Staying mindful is hard, especially when we’re in a hurry, or when we want to appear wise, or when we are bothered by waves of problems.
But if only we stay present, we can achieve a more meaningful conversation.
And meaningful conversations, most likely, lead to harmony and understanding.
But remember, it’s not just about knowing the importance of staying present, or knowing the difference between mindful and mindless listening. But also getting serious in changing our bad habit.
It’s about taking actions.
Here’s an experiment: Every time you start a conversation with a friend, family member, spouse, or anyone, tell them that you want to pay full attention and just listen. You can ask them to assess you — whether you’re listening mindfully or not.
As the saying goes, we don’t learn from talking; we learn from listening — mindful listening. When we talk, we are only expressing what we already know. But when we listen, we are opening doors for new ideas.
Listening, indeed, is a great opportunity to learn and grow. Don’t waste it.
Give it a try. Be fully present during a conversation. Don’t think about something else. Just listen and connect.