Recently for fun, a dear friend of mine and I took the 5 Love Languages test together, (I’m an Acts of Service and Physical Touch, for those of you who are curious). But, it got me to reflecting on how language and listening are all part of the communications hub. In turning to my own experiences in parenting, friendships and workplace relationships, I realized that over time we often start “tuning out” those around us when they’re attempting to communicate with us: nodding our head when our spouse vents about their work day, giving noncommittal email responses, throwing out the occasional “uh-huh” when our children rattle on about their play date or some new video game. As a parent, I catch myself doing this: “half listening” to my son telling me about his comic book or conversation with a schoolmate. We all do it.
Yet, listening with our whole selves: seeing, heeding, sensing and feeling enables us to experience deeper exchanges with ourselves and those around us. We become more mindful of what is truly being said by choices in vocabulary, omissions, tone, body language, breathing and eye contact. As well as, our own physical responses while processing and interpreting the data we are receiving. This mindfulness of listening gives way to more positive and honest interactions with our selves and others. So, what does whole body listening feel like? Explore the brief “Personal Whole Body Listening” Exercise below:
PERSONAL WHOLE BODY LISTENING EXERCISE
- While thinking of a topic or experience that is negative, note your breathing, body temperature, what you do with your hands, and the position of your body.
- Now, repeat step #1 while thinking of a happy experience or topic. What were the differences in your body temperature and position, breathing and how you held (or didn’t hold) your hands?
Everyone’s body, every person we have an exchange with goes through the same sensory shifts, conscious or not.
While it is important to listen to others with our whole selves, it is equally necessary to explore why we may be shutting others out through half listening. Due to our busy lives and minds tuning out is a very human thing; it can be just as much an active response as a passive one. Despite being a self proclaimed “people reader”, I find I need to check in, consider and openly communicate some of these key signs that I may be tuning out and why:
- Am I getting irritated when others are talking to me?
- Is there a particular communication style that they are using? (E.g. being repetitive, using a condescending or belittling tone, over or under communicating– being long-winded and verbose or not being clear and specific, etc.)
- Does it feel like a disturbance or interruption? (See when your needs are not being met below)
- I can’t truly recall what the conversation or communication was about. But, I can recall what I was thinking or feeling at the time unrelated to the exchange.
- When we are present and listening with our whole selves recalling (whether it be the outline, overall sense and emotion, or verbatim) of a conversation will be effortless. Even, when we need a little prompting.
- What needs are not being met when I’m not listening effectively? It is difficult to focus on others when our basic needs are not being met:
- Am I tired?
- Needing personal space?
- Or, quiet time?
- Have there been recent changes in others’ behaviours when communicating with me?:
- More or less emphasis used in emails, letters, IMs and text messages: italics, exclamation and question marks, emoticons
- Body language and cues: more or less tactile, crossing of arms, slouching, eye contact or lack there of, standing instead of sitting and vice versa
- Speech patterns: over or under stating, argumentative, non responsive, raised or lowered voice
Listening with our whole selves: seeing, heeding, sensing and feeling is truly a balance between listening to ourselves (our physical and emotional states), and listening to others’ physical and language cues.
Being mindful that adjusting our communication dials to tune out and tune in is all part of our vital balancing act 🙂
The Process of Life blog posts are inspired lessons, learnings and meditations acquired for myself and my fellow growth journeyers- Coach Melanie