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Hold the advice!

 

Have you ever been to a doctor and found them writing a prescription before you'd finished saying what was wrong?

Have you ever told a friend (or a parent or a spouse!) about a problem and been told what to do about it before you had even finished telling them what the real issue was?

Have you ever had to grit your teeth while someone advised you to do things you had already tried because they didn't bother to ask what you'd already done?

It is a common experience to have people prescribing solutions before they have understood the problem, isn't it?

This is because we often don't get a key distinction in communication.

Listening and giving advice.

I know, I know. We spoke about this just last week. But it is just so important, that it is worth repeating.

Listening helps others to tell their stories. It requires putting our own agenda (and even our own expertise) on hold and simply "becoming a vessel into which others can pour their worries, their passions, their joys, their...

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The difference between listening and agreeing.

In my experience, one of the things that stops us from truly listening to the other is the fear that listening might indicate that we agree with what they are saying.

What if we don't agree? Should we not start making our case right from the first sentence? Does silence not mean assent?

Not so. Just hear me out. :)

Listening to, and agreeing with, are two different communication processes. And in between the two lies a third one – understanding.

When someone is sharing their experience, their feelings or their thoughts, there is really nothing to agree to or disagree with. The experience, the feelings and the thoughts belong to the person who is having and sharing them. Our role is simply to hear them out and to understand them (if we wish to be connected to them, that is).

For statements or conversations that do require agreement or disagreement (such as making plans or finding a solution to a problem) understanding the conversation before we agree or disagree with it is...

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Listening is uncomfortable

Listening to somebody express their needs, their problems, their pain, their frustration or sadness is not easy and it is not fun. It touches your heart, makes you anxious and you want to make it all better.

As soon as possible.

And so you start offering solutions to make the other person feel better…

"Cheer up. Its not so bad."
"Look on the bright side"
"Be grateful. There are so many people who have it much worse"
"Be positive. Its all in your mind."
"Don't be sad (or angry, or upset, or frustrated or whatever). It will get better soon".

A question for you: how is that working out for you and for your relationship?

Does the person thank you for your wisdom, calms down, takes your advice and becomes cheerful?

No, I didn't think so.

Here's the thing: there is a time for listening and a time for offering support, guidance or advice.

And you generally have to do one before you can do the other.

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Why work on listening?

There are many many reasons why it is important to work on our listening skills. Apart from being a key skill in the workplace and in life, it is not an overstatement to say that the art of listening is critical to successful relationships.

Without listening, we have what George Bernard Shaw called "the illusion of communication". We can tell when there exists a lack of listening in a relationship when there are frequent misunderstandings, hurt feelings and feelings of frustration regarding unmet emotional needs.

It is said that being listened to is so much like being loved that most people don't know the difference.

Truly listening to another human being and allowing another person to express themselves without interrupting, judging, refuting, or discounting is a gift of love – a sacred gift - that we can offer.

For the one expressing themselves, being listened to, heard and understood is like emotional oxygen. When the core human need to be listened to and understood is met,...

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Test yourself on your listening skills

How do you know if you listen well or not?

Here are some questions to reflect on.

Do you:

Tend to speak more than others.
Interrupt, and believe this is a natural part of conversation.
Think ahead, finishing peoples sentences for them.
Come to conclusions quickly and form options of what needs to be done before the speaker is finished.

Get impatient if the speaker is slow and taking a while.
Find yourself thinking about what you want to say instead of  concentrating on what the speaker is saying.

Are easily distracted.
Fake attention when listening to others
Make judgments about the speaker.

Want to get to the bottom line quickly.
Want facts rather than ideas.

Are not interested in how people feel, you just want to know what they've done.
Often forget what people told you.
Listen selectively, dipping in and out of attentiveness.

Are more interested in content than feelings.
Don't observe body language and facial expressions, and stare into space while listening.
Tend to listen without...

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Notice the gift of the rain puddle

 

Let us continue our discussion on expanding our awareness in life to notice blessings rather than just focusing on problems and issues.

Here is a lovely poem, particularly apt in the current fall weather we are having in North America:

Gifts of the Rain Puddle
Beth Kurland

I woke up from a funk today of too many bills
too many emails to return, not enough time –
From that irritability that creeps in insidiously like a dark shadow ready to swallow us all
if we let it in.

I woke up to discover
that I inherited a small fortune!

Actually,
if truth be told,
would you believe that I forgot that it was here all along?

My neighbor reminded me this morning –
the little guy in the overalls and dirt filled fingernails.
I saw him laughing hysterically
as he jumped in a giant puddle,
a leftover gift from the torrential rains;
as he soaked himself,
and went back for more,
then began running and shrieking
through the wet grass
with his unsteady gait
until he fell down in a heap,
all smiles.

I...

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Don’t take it personally



Salaams and Good Morning !

Here is your daily dose of Wisdom for Living Your Best Self!

A very effective step towards equanimity is to practice taking things less personally.

Let us understand this through a Taoist fable from Chuang-Tzu, which I learnt from one of my teachers, Rick Hanson.

Here is how he tells it:

It is a beautiful day and you are floating in canoe with a friend on a slow-moving river on a beautiful Sunday.

Suddenly there is a loud thump on the side of the canoe, and it rolls over, dumping you and your friend into the cold water. You come up sputtering and realize that somebody swum up to your canoe and tipped it over on purpose, for a joke and is now laughing at how annoyed you and your friend are.

How do you feel when you experience this?

Now let's imagine a slightly different scenario.

The scene is exactly the same: same boat, same river and same beautiful but cold river. Your boat is hit, tipped over and you are cold and wet. Except that when you come up and...

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Be like Teflon

Let's continue our discussion on developing and practicing equanimity as a path to mindful communication.

Equanimity, as we have discussed, is the ability to remain calm even in difficult situations and not get triggered in response to what others say or do.

Today's practice is about being like Teflon.

Teflon, as you may know, is used as a non-reactive, non-stick coating for pans and other cookware. The primary characteristic of Teflon is that it does not react with the chemicals in food and also allows foods not to stick and instead slide right off the pan.

So what is a Teflon Mindset? To have a Teflon Mindset is developing the ability to allow experiences, feelings, and thoughts come into your mind and slip right out without reacting to them.

If you run into someone else's bad day, for example, you do not have to engage with them and get hooked into an argument. If they say something which is baiting you to engage into a verbal battle, how about practicing being like Teflon?

Let...

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Foundations of mindful communication – Recap

Today let us remind ourselves about the five foundations of mindful communication that we have discussed.

To practice mindful communication,

1) Get in touch with your intention. Cultivate positive intentions for your communication and remind yourselves of these before you engage in conversation with others
2) Have an attitude of curiosity and compassion. An attitude of curiosity helps us listen better and get to know people while judgmental attitudes block communication.
3) Be willing to learn and to act. Change and growth means that we are open to learning new ways and willing to act on our learning and put it into practice.
4) Practice self awareness. Shine the light of awareness on how you interact with others and be open to feedback.
5) Be mindfully present, which means having your attention in the same place where your body is.

Which foundation do you find the most challenging?

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Bring mindful presence to your interactions

The fifth and final foundation of mindful communication is mindful presence.

What is mindful presence? In the context that we are talking about, it means to have your mind and your attention and your body all in the same place. Sounds simple, right?

Being mindfully present where you are physically is rather challenging in modern times. This is because we have so many things to distract us all the time.

Think of all the times when you talk to people or do things during the day but realise only after you have done them that you have no memory of what you did or said. This is because while we are doing our daily actions or conversing with people that we speak to regularly, our attention is somewhere quite different. Many of us live with background noise of the TV or devices on all the time. Or we are so hooked to our devices that we are connected with those who may be far away from us physically while not connected to those who are right beside us.

Do you know what I'm talking about?

...

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