We all know about ‘fake news’. But what about fake listening?
You know how it goes – someone is talking to you and you’re nodding away and you look like you’re listening, until they ask you a question. And then you’ve either got to bluff it or own up … you weren’t actually paying attention.
Where was your attention? Daydreaming, worrying, planning … thinking about the past or the future … the point is, your body was present but your thoughts were somewhere else.
Very often, we don’t even realise that our attention has drifted off until someone expects a response! Not surprisingly, there are usually consequences to this type of unmindfulness.
For a start, you could miss important information in a lecture or meeting, which can lead to mistakes and also waste time in trying to catch up later. It also has a negative effect in relationships – why would people bother talking to someone who doesn’t seem interested, or is more interested in checking their phone?
The first step in creating mindful communication, is to notice when you’re distracted by thoughts and your attention is drawn away from what’s happening now. Then gently unhook from those thoughts and bring your attention back to what’s going on in the present moment.
Being able to listen to another person with full attention is a valuable skill. It lets you pick up information such as tone of voice and body language, as well as the actual words being said, and it lets the other person know that you value them and are interested in what they’ve got to say (even if you don’t agree with them), which is the basis of all real relationships – as opposed to fake ones!