Although there isn’t any real scientific proof on this, I believe that one of the benefits of meditation is that it can help you improve your ability to be a good listener. One of the key elements of being a good listener is, of course, paying attention. If your mind is racing and full of distraction, clearly this can interrupt your ability to give your full, undivided attention to the speaker.
What is good listening? There are many qualities that fit under this umbrella. For example, a good listener is able to focus completely on the speaker and his/her words without interruption. A good listener also asks empowering, thoughtful questions to clarify and gain a deeper understanding. A good listener is empathetic and often tries to walk a mile in the shoes of the speaker. A good listener will often provide a safe, private, quiet environment for the speaker to open up and start talking (possibly by turning their TV and cell phone off or stepping away from a loud, crowded area if the conversation is over the phone). A really good listener will mirror the body language of the speaker, either consciously or subconsciously. An extra good listener will use these three simple steps when it is the appropriate time to respond to the speaker:
1) Listen actively (described above)
2) Validate the speaker (“Oh, that is horrible,” “I can see why that was frustrating,” or “Yes, you had every right to be angry.”)
3) Give options, not advice (Often asking the speaker what their options are is quite empowering. They will frequently solve their own dilemma, which gives them control back and begins their healing.)
So how can meditation help someone improve their listening skills? As meditation is a way of quieting one’s mental chatter through stillness and silent spiritual contemplation, that meditative serenity can be carried throughout the day. Meditating can provide a sense of peace that lasts hours or days longer than the short meditation period. If distraction is a problem for you while you’re trying to listen, meditation can help you turn the volume down on the ever-chattering voice in the head. Additionally, meditation teaches increased focus and concentration, which can also translate into better listening. If interrupting is a problem you have, meditation can help you gain control of that boisterous voice in your head wanting to interject comments and criticisms as someone speaks.
One thing science does prove is that meditation does change people’s brain structures to be more empathetic. Several studies have been done in which the brains of expert meditators with at least 10,000 hours of meditation time were compared to brain scans of non-meditators. The results showed that the expert meditators had actually grown the area of the brain (the pre-frontal cortex) responsible for empathy larger. Not only were the limbic systems or emotional networks of the meditators stronger, but their pre-fontal cortexes were also highly active during meditation. So if empathy is where your listening needs work, meditation is a great tool.
Remember you have two ears and just one mouth for a reason!
~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com