Just Listen

So, slowly we’ve begun to make connections in our new town. I’ll admit, it was difficult during the winter months to meet people. We were all darting from the cold to the warmth of cars or houses with not much more than a wave or a “Hey, how’s it going?”

The one thing that has been a huge resource for all of us has been Maddie’s daycare. She’s found her community of classmates, and we’ve begun to find a community of parents – many who are from NYC! A program that was sponsored in part by Maddie’s daycare was actually a wonderful way for us to meet people. It was called the Parent Café and was held once a week for 4 weeks. During the “café” we’d discuss parenting challenges and tactics for dealing with the challenges. It was really beneficial to not only connect with other people, but to remember that we were not alone with some of the struggles we were dealing with – parenting-wise as well as with our transition.

At the beginning of each session we started with a “meet-someone-new game.” The rules were always the same: meet someone you don’t know, and pair up with them. Each person got 3 minutes to talk about whatever. During that time the other person just LISTENED. He/she was not allowed to respond verbally at all. As we chatted after the exercise about our experiences of being the talker and the listener, we all had similar sensations: of being self-conscious and uncomfortable with trying to fill 3 minutes of talking, and yet realizing how powerful and great it was to not be interrupted – to know someone was really listening; and on the other side how difficult it was to not jump in and agree, or offer advice or a sympathetic “I totally get that.” We utilized this practice during our larger discussions. When someone was talking he/she held the “talking stick” and had the floor to share what they needed to. The next person to talk had to wait until he/she had the talking stick to respond or share their thoughts.

In thinking about this practice, I wonder how often we actually feel heard in our lives: be it at work with our bosses, employees or co-workers, with our families, or with our friends. And on the flipside, are we really listening? I know there are plenty of times I don’t feel heard, either because I’m too distracted to fully form and articulate the thought in my head or because the person I’m talking to isn’t as present as I need them to be. And quite honestly, there are plenty of times I’m not as attentive a listener as I need to be. I’ll find myself half-listening to Jonathan or Maddie or my mom, often because I’m thinking about my response to what they are telling me and I’m waiting to jump in and share my two cents, but just as likely it’s because I’m distracted by the things I want to get done or the thoughts rattling around in my head.

In the speaking and in the listening we get the chance to practice being fully present for ourselves and for someone else. Just for fun, the next time you are having a conversation with someone, notice how many times you want to interrupt them to either offer advice or to agree…and then try not to. Really give them the floor to speak for as long as they need to, and you just simply listen – with your whole body, your whole being listen. Give them your undivided attention and respect. See how that feels for you, and if you’re curious you can always see how it feels for them.

And then of course, if you have willing participants, you can always try the above-mentioned exercise and see what that’s like. Maybe you try it with your partner, kids, family or friends.

Here it is once more:

  • each person gets 3 minutes to talk about whatever is on their mind – maybe their day, or a concern they have, or an observation they’ve made.
  • The listener can say nothing. When it’s the other person’s turn they can choose to speak about whatever they would like without interruption.

You can also try the “talking stick” method where each person can only talk when they are holding the talking stick. This is a really great technique when you are brainstorming or sharing ideas about a common issue.

As always, I’m curious to hear about your experiences and of course your feedback. And, I invite you to share via email, phone, facebook any way that I can support you on your yoga and wellness journey –I’M ALL EARS

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