Listening Mindfully ‘Behind the Story’ for a Great, Connected Conversation
When listening to someone, see if you can do something quite different than what people normally do. Take a step back (internally). Get mindful. Don’t focus on the “story” so much — but rather, pay close attention to the person, the whole person, speaking. Hear and respond to who is speaking, how they present themselves, the pace and quality of speaking, the kinds of words they use, the feeling you have from being in their presence, and ask yourself “what are they really saying to me that is beyond the words”.
Look past the words and immediate “issues” into the heart of the bigger picture. In the movie Avatar, the Navi had a saying “I see you” — meant to convey that this. It means, “I see you in a big way, the whole of you”. The essential nature of a person, and not just the topic of immediate concern.
Who is this person speaking to me? What kind of life have they had? What kind of childhood did they have? How has life wounded them? What do they “light up” about? What are they passionate about? Who are their ancestors? All of these things and more are fully present in a moment if you just look and are open to it.
Of course, you cannot see very much when you are not present with your experience. When mindful, if you’re being judgmental or have some personal agenda, you will notice how your inner judgments cut you off from actually seeing the person you are with, more objectively. “Ah, notice I’m trying to do things so this person to likes me.” Or “I really have a reaction to the language they use”.
If you notice these things, that’s excellent mindfulness. Just notice that is happening, but keep your attention on them. Look, really look, at the person standing in front of you and know that they have years and years of experience, history and untold stories you could never find the end of. Are they happy? Are they hopeful? Are they bitter, angry, caring, loving? Who the heck is this person?
When you’re really with someone like this, a sense of spaciousness is present emerges. You don’t feel pressed to do anything in particular making it easier to explore this space without pressure. There is a sense of bearing witness, and simply being in a state of loving presence with another person. There is no pressure to solve a problem, or change someone. A natural curiosity usually arises that is much deeper than asking “what happened next.” Instead, it is more along the lines of a simple, natural, emergent, caring, and authentic curiosity. Who is this person?