Friday, 1 February 2013

OBSERVE - Listen like a sponge

This very useful skill was taught to me by a extremely talented key worker when I was on the intensive outpatient program last year. She really got through to me and helped me see how little attention I pay to others when they are talking to me.

This is what she told me to try to help improve my relationships by using mindfulness:

"Listen to others as if you are a sponge, soaking up what the other person is saying. Let your mind be quiet, and just take it in. Don't formulate any response in your mind until a response is requested or required."

At first I was quite annoyed, even offended that she thought I didn't listen to people . I became defensive and shut down and guess what... I didn't listen to word she said after that!

Maybe she had a point.

But what I failed to understand is that mindful listening is not common place in our society. It's also known as absorptive listening and really ties in with the DBT skill of OBSERVE. It does not come naturally to most people and most certainly does not come natural to me.

Recently I have started practicing absorptive listening and have become very aware of my inner dialogue;  a mental voice urging the person talking to "hurry up and finish speaking so I can tell you what I think!!!" As you can imagine this voice can interfere with tranquil, attentive listening. I discovered I rarely just allow myself to 'absorb' what the other person is saying without trying to tie it to my own life somehow or come up with a solution to the problem they are telling me about.

I 'but' in to other people's conversations and jump to a new topic before the last has really ended and to be honest I have come across as plain rude in some cases.... not intentionally... but just due to a lack of awareness, a absence of mindfulness.

I know how great it feels to be on the receiving side of absorptive listening, and am blessed to have some fantastically mindful friends who I feel really 'witness' me when I talk, (or write, as I have some great on-line friends). I would love to nurture that talent within myself so that others may feel that total attention from me.

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