Improving Communication Starts with Listening Longer

balancing the fifth chakra

I was flipping through channels on TV and came across a psychologist doing an audience Q & A. Someone asked him for tips on how to communicate better with loved ones.

The psychologist’s answer was simple (but not easy). “Listen longer than you want to,” he said.

Improving Communication Starts with Listening

I’m often told I’m a good listener, but I’ll be honest. There are many times I just don’t want to listen anymore. Usually, this happens when I’ve heard the same thing before—sometimes many times before—from the same person. You’ve probably been here too. Your friend or spouse or sibling is going on about the same problem they’ve shared seemingly a thousand times.

And you’re just like, “OMG, get over it already!”

I don’t feel great about this. But I think we must be honest with ourselves. Even the most compassionate, skilled listeners have a point at which they don’t want to have the same conversation again.

But why not? It doesn’t take more time to hear the same thing than it does to hear something new.

I think the reason is listening to someone struggle with something you (and apparently, they) are unable to change, makes you feel inadequate. Why, after all, do they keep coming to you with this problem? If you haven’t helped them get past it the last fifteen thousand times you’ve listened to it, what will be different this time?

Okay, I’m exaggerating. It’s usually only a thousand times. But there’s a point at which no amount of listening will make a dent in improving communication.

Communication is Connection

One definition of communication is the exchange of information. It implies a connection between two or more parties to impart and receive information. When we speak of communicating with people close to us, we’re usually interested in more than information. In fact, information is easy to communicate.

When we talk about improving 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 more than we did before—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 message the speaker is trying to impart. This isn’t easy. To do it, 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 the truth is, if the other person isn’t a good communicator, there may be nothing more we can do to improve the connection.

Meditation for Improving 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 when we listen, not just to words, but to emotions and things beyond words.

And it helps us 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. But empty your mind and be present while you do it.

 

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Maria Kuzmiak, M.A. is a health and well-being writer with a background in nutrition, psychology and education and a passion for yoga. She has written hundreds of articles, blogs and newsletters for clients in health-related fields, particularly those specializing in yoga, natural medicine, nutrition, and spiritual health and healing. Maria has also worked as a nutritionist, teacher and technical editor. Learn more about her writing at www.wellbeingwriter.net.

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