Don’t we all want to feel like a little kid busting a gut laughing in nature with a flower in her hair? That is the gift that true listening allows for the sender and receiver.
We all like attention. Plain and simple. Some of us may be a hot seat hog while others may want the one on one intimacy. Either way, it validates our existence. Listening does just that. (Need help learning how to give and receive the healthy kind of attention? Check this out.)
We know when someone is listening to us. We can feel it in the marrow of our bones & deep in our hearts. There’s a mutual respect that is established immediately when this occurs. It’s magnetic and memorable. We feel seen and a deep sense of connection. We leave wanting more of the good stuff.
The good news? There’s a lot more where that came from.
The great news? It transcends age, race, gender and any other category that we are crammed into.
The best news? It’s absolutely free and open 24/7.
There’s no need to go into the listening vs hearing analysis or why actively listening is beneficial to all involved. What is important is actually applying practices that will make you a better listener. Got a pulse and five minutes? That’s all you need.
Yes, literally. That’s all you need.
Here are two incredibly simple exercises that take less than 5 minutes a day. Whether you’re prepping for a presentation, a job interview, a difficult conversation or just need a boost of refocus, these exercises will do the trick.
The 5 Senses Exercise
This exercise works particularly well if you arrive early to a space that you are about to present in. It also inevitably causes a calmer feeling afterwards. Major bonus!
1. Look around the space you are in (side to side and up and down). If you are able, walk around the space
2. Now, take a seat with your feet planted on the ground and your hands resting comfortably, face down on your thighs. Roll your shoulders back a few times and take one solid breath in and out.
3. At this point, give yourself a minute to focus on each sense.
Hear: Begin to notice all of the sounds around you. Try not to judge the sounds- just notice them. They are not good or bad, they just are. Sounds might be internal, like breathing or digestion. Sounds might be close by or more distant like the sound of traffic. Are you now hearing more than you were before you started? You may begin to notice subtle sounds you did not hear before. Can you hear them now?
Smell: Now shift your attention to notice the smells of your environment. Maybe you smell food. You might become aware of the smell of trees or plants if you are outside. You might notice the smell of books or paper. Sometimes closing your eyes can help sharpen your attention.
See: Observe your surrounding and notice the colors, shapes and textures. If you really look, you may notice things that have gone unnoticed.
Taste: You can do this one even if you have food in your mouth. You may notice an aftertaste of a previous drink or meal. You can just notice your tongue in your mouth, your saliva, and your breath as you exhale. We have tastes in our mouth that often go unnoticed. You can run your tongue over your teeth and cheeks to help you become more aware.
Touch: Last one. Bring your attention to the sensations of skin contact with your chair, clothing, and feet on the floor. You can notice the pressure between your feet and the floor or your body and the chair. You can observe temperature like the warmth or coolness of your hands or feet. You might take time to feel the textures that you noticed by sight a moment ago. You can feel several objects on your desk to fully focus your attention on the present.
4. Slowly open your eyes and take one more deep breath. Your level of presence and awareness are now at a higher level than five minutes ago.
As an alternative: List the five senses on a piece of paper, leaving a bit of space between each one. As you go through each sense, jot down what you are picking up on. This method is handier when you are in public and need to be a bit more inconspicuous.
Streams of Sounds
I just put this exercise to practice the other day when I went for a family walk in our area’s fabulous Root Glen. It works wonders and immediately creates a stronger antennae up, Here I am, World!, feeling.
What you’re doing here is channeling your streams of sound. You’re focusing on each sound that you’re hearing. There are so many sounds that we hear simultaneously. This exercise allows you to focus on each one individually.
1. Sit, stand, walk, do a headstand…whatever is your pleasure to get you focused.
2. Focus on one sound at a time for a minute (up to five sounds should do the trick). For example: Right now in my office I hear;
- A train
- My computer’s hard drive
- My breath
- An airplane
Obviously, John Candy’s spirit is visiting my office. (Cyber high-five for catching the Planes, Trains & Automobiles reference.)
Give it a shot. Right now. You’ve got nothing to lose. Take five and then reply back to us and let us know how it WERCed out for you. Share this PST (Problem Solving Tip) with friends. After all, the better we all listen the better we all are, right?
“Listening is not just hearing what someone tells you word for word. You have to listen with a heart. I don’t want that to sound touchy-feely; it is not. It is very hard work.
Anna Deavere Smith