Communication – a lack thereof and desire for – is the one of the most common reasons people seek therapy. Communication, for one, involves talking and listening, which we often think of as a mind skill. But it is more than that. Listening involves the mind and the body; thinking and feeling.
Truly “attending” to an answer may require more than just basic listening. An exercise or tool to improve communication often taught in therapy is called “active listening”. You listen with the intent of hearing and then say back what you heard (correcting if necessary) until the other person feels authentically and accurately heard. Then you switch.
But the real key to resolving issues is to go beyond listening and hearing, into understanding. Through active listening, you broaden the lens of perception and pave the way to understanding. Understanding involves thinking (the hearing part) and feeling. The two elements operate in conjunction — thinking is often, if not always, driven by feelings. Feelings inform thoughts which inform feelings, which inform thoughts, and so on.
So, the mind (thinking) and body (feeling) are connected. But, while engaging in dialogue — focusing on the words — we often unconsciously forget about the body/feeling part. We override or ignore those feelings. Listening is an auditory skill, but the kind of listening we really crave involves all the senses, including feelings. So as you tune in to the words, try to remember to tune into the feelings behind them, too – this is where the true connections can be found.
Yes, listen. But practice listening beyond the auditory component – and not just in your closest relationships, but with everyone. Each verbal encounter with another is a mini relationship; a chance to practice this incredibly valuable skill. Tuning into this mind/body connection can, and most probably will, help you to become a more skillful communicator. If we could all be mindful of this in our every interaction, the effects would undoubtedly be far reaching and profound.