I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me. How often have you sincerely been able to say this? Or received this from another person?
Being able to truly be present when listening to someone else can be extremely difficult. It’s one thing to be present with oneself—noticing sensations, feelings and thoughts as they come and go. But, it is a whole other practice to do this same thing when in dialogue with someone else.
As Oprah Winfrey noted, people want to be seen and heard. And it is a great exercise for us to practice presence when given this opportunity.
We all can give the gift of presence when listening by doing these three things.
For all of the work I do to live a mindful and present existence, I still find it extremely difficult sometimes to be fully present when listening to another person. I’m either judging what they say or planning what I am going to say next or interrupting them to prove my point or negate what they said.
And, yet, none of these things are a practice in presence.
True presence requires me to refrain from judgment and simply observe what is said, felt or heard; to be in the moment and not be thinking about the future; to release expectations or attachment to specific outcomes; and to quiet my ego by detaching from my thoughts and beliefs.
"But who would I be if I didn’t argue that professional football players get paid a ridiculous amount of money?! I need to defend that and make sure everyone knows how I feel about it!”
Or … I could simply notice that thought for what it is—just a thought. And note that this particular thought causes my blood to boil and my heart to race—for some reason. And remember that this thought is not “me” so there is no need for me to defend or prove “myself."
One of the most beautiful gifts we can give another is our presence by truly listening to and hearing them. When we are completely in the moment and can release any attachment to our own beliefs and expectations of another, we can truly hear that person without the need to craft a response or interject with our own ideas or even feel the need to defend.
Next time you are having a conversation and want to practice the gift of presence, try these three things:
Breathe, breathe, breathe.
I know it keeps coming back to the breath but we often forget just how powerful it is. If you are focused on your breath, it’s kind of hard to speak.
Listen to what is said and notice how you react—then let it go.
Acknowledge any judgmental reactions or remarks that cross your mind, thank your inner voice for sharing and then let the thought go like a cloud dissolving in the sky.
Recognize what is your responsibility.
It is not your responsibility to “fix” or “change” another person. It is also none of your business what they think or feel. You are responsible for what you believe and how you react. Be aware of when you start taking on responsibility for others and then kindly resign yourself from that job.
It’s not to say that you will always agree with everything everyone says—or need to, for that matter. But when you practice being present and truly listening to another person and learn how to check your ego at the door, you honor that person and yourself while cultivating peace.
What is one thing you can do the next time you engage in a discussion with someone to practice giving your gift of presence? Join the conversation by leaving a comment.