Listening – and feeling that we are being heard – are fundamental to any meaningful relationship, whether personal or professional. But how good are you at listening to yourself and hearing what your mind, body, heart, spirit – and the context – are telling you?
I’ve written a number of pieces on the importance of listening as part of relationship and connection (see Leveling Up Your Listening for Forbes and Deeply Generous Listening in Psychology Today). But it’s equally important to listen to yourself.
How often do you take time to listen – really listen – to yourself? And, when you do – are you receptive and empathetic? Does your listening have the key qualities of caring and support that you extend to others?
This kind of listening means letting go of control – being open to what comes up.
This kind of listening is about being fully present – in the present moment. Mindfulness helps us with this. If we learn how to be mindful during our interactions with others, we can be better listeners. Mindfulness involves us noticing – with all of our senses – what is happening at the present time, in our immediate physical surroundings. And, in this case, with ourselves. We feel, hear, observe and intuit what is going on for us, and we respond to that, and to ourselves, without any judgement.
Each different level of listening – from the head, the heart, and the body – has its merits in a certain context. However, it is helpful to develop them all, to flexibly switch between them, and seamlessly use all three ways of listening to achieve truly deep listening. Especially when listening to ourselves.
The RAIN model can also help us with this process.
Tara Brach uses the acronym RAIN to remind us to use compassion and mindfulness in our lives and interactions, especially when faced with any emotional difficulty. She says that in the RAIN model, we:
“Recognize what is going on;
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
Investigate with interest and care;
Nurture with self-compassion.”
You can also use these steps in relation to achieving deep listening to yourself, for greater understanding. On Tara Brach’s website, you can find out more – and gently be led through the process via her meditation, Light Rain in Difficult Times. There, the steps are described in more depth, while also reaching our subconscious through meditative practice.
Outside of meditation, you can also talk yourself through a similar exercise:
- The R of RAIN invites you to use mindfulness to recognize the most predominant emotion or strongest mood you can discern – either in yourself, or with someone speaking to you.
- The A invites you to allow that feeling or mood to be present and to simply belong there – without making any judgment or trying to fix it, and yet, without ignoring it.
- The I of RAIN involves investigating that feeling in your body – is it in the throat, chest, belly? Then, gently place your hand where you feel the strongest emotion, and just breathe with it, and simply be with what’s there. You might also have a sense of a belief that’s attached to the feeling. What is the belief? Pay extra attention to where that belief exists in your body. Such beliefs usually live in your throat, chest or belly. Get in touch with that vulnerable area inside you…
- Then, ask yourself: ‘What does this need? What kind of nurturing does it need most? Acceptance? Belonging? Compassion? Love? Forgiveness? Understanding?
- Then, with the most compassionate part of yourself, in some way, give that vulnerability whatever it needs – whether it is kindness or caring, just let it flow inside.
Other Daily Practices
There are other ways of enhancing your self-listening skills using the elements of deep listening and RAIN. You can practice:
- Listening with your heart, body and head – deep listening whenever you can.
- Meditation and Yoga.
- Mindfulness whenever you can – e.g. going for a mindful walk, making a meal mindfully.
- Dealing with conflicts and challenges mindfully.
- Making more conscious and mindful choices.
When you are quiet, there is infinite time. You not only hear what your mind, body, heart and spirit are saying – you hear what is beyond and behind that. You reach a deeper level of listening – and a more profound understanding of and connection with yourself.
Please feel free to download my new resource Designing Your Leadership Self-Reflection Practice – Guided Writing Prompts – packed with tips, tools, and guided prompts to launch your leadership self-reflection practice as you continue to strengthen your leadership.
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