This post is inspired by a tweet from the legendary Tom Peters which deeply resonated with me.
I once had such a major disconnect with the Head of HR that I had to walk out of his room. And the disconnect was not that of ideas because I could not even start the discussion for which we were meeting. Every time I attempted to start, a text message on his cell phone or something on his computer screen distracted him. Not only that, he chose to respond to those distractions. I requested him to get through his preoccupations and then schedule a time to connect without any interruptions.
But this happens even when technology is not the culprit. You can feel the disconnect when someone pretends to hear you but not really listen.
The art of effective listening has a lot to do with the practice of meditation. Lets see how.
Meditation practice is known to make us calm by focusing all our attention and consciousness to a center within us. Meditation allows us to listen to our own thoughts, feelings and emotions resulting in clarity about the true nature of things. Meditation is about listening.
When communicating with the other, we need something similar – meditative listening if we can call it that way. Why can’t the other person in front of you be that center?
“Listening is Meditation. Clear your mind for the duration.”
If we clear our mind of all other thoughts and distractions before we start the conversation, it becomes an engaging exchange. When the other person is your center, you are not just hearing what is said, you are also listening to the emotion behind the words, the unstated needs, what it really means and what the body language conveys. Hearing is the function of our mind and mind has a tendency to constantly rationalize. When mind is engaged in rationalization it cannot fully attend. Listening is the function of something more deeper – the heart or soul may be!
You can truly serve others when you know what others really need or value. And meditative listening is the only way to get to it.
It does not matter whether you are a leader or not. Next time someone (team member/peer/customer/your kid) walks up to you for a conversation, treat it is an opportunity. Turn off all your screens. Mute your gadgets. Silent your mind. Let go of the baggage of your preconceived notions and assumptions. Make the other person your center. And then listen.
It helps you show your respect to the other person, encourage a meaningful exchange, become emotionally intelligent and aware.
Listening well is as much about meditation as meditation is about listening.
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