Reese at 1
Being in the present moment means letting go of thinking about the past or the future and being fully aware of what is happening right now in the present moment. It has many benefits such as strengthening memory, reducing stress and improving focus. The benefit that I enjoy the most is that being fully present deepens personal relationships. The best way to be present for a person is through deep listening. Deep listening means listening to learn about a persons thoughts, feelings and life experience and not for a jumping off point for your own stories. No matter where they are in life every person has a profound desire to be seen, heard and valued. When you give them the gifts of being fully present and deep listening you are being a witness to their worth and helping them feel validated.
The benefits of being fully present and deep listening have no age limit. I spent an enchanting and exhausting afternoon playing with my 3 year-old niece. While the adults did adult stuff Reese chased me through an obstacle course of packing boxes, played with her babies and their stuffies and showed me how to jump out of an empty packing box. We hadn’t spent a lot of time together so at first she was a bit shy. I wanted to interact with her, so I sat quietly and thought about how to get her to feel comfortable. I quickly realized that it doesn’t matter how old a person is, everyone wants the same thing; to be heard.
So, I listened. I’m more of a story teller or game player but Reece was all about her babies. Moving them from box to box, shushing everyone so that they could sleep and fussing over them like any mom with a bunch of little ones. Looking for an in, I waited until she ran out of boxes and then found an empty one for her. She cautiously let me put a baby in the box then redid it because the baby didn’t like it. Then she let me hand the babies to her while she put them in a box. I listened more and we played more. I let go of wanting anything to be a certain way and opened myself to just enjoying her presence. She led, I followed. The more that I let go the more my heart opened and the more connected we became. When she left my heart was filled with a peaceful joy and I felt as though I’d been in a classroom learning from a master.
Being with Reese reminded me of the bond that can be developed when we listen to people. When she first arrived she was very hesitant to let me into her world. By the time that she left she was hugging me and listing all of things that we could do together on our next play date.
Tips for Deep Listening
Set your intention – Take a deep breath and focus on why you are there.
Let go of judgement – Accept that this conversation isn’t about you or what you think or how you feel. This isn’t about your values, it’s about their feelings.
Be patient – Don’t fill in periods of silence. Allow them to gather their thoughts without interruption.
Cultivate empathy – Open yourself to feel how their experience affected them.
Show That You’re Listening
Look into their eyes while they’re speaking – not continually, about 60% of the time.
Have an appropriate facial expression – if they’re sad look sad, if they’re happy smile.
Say oh or uh-huh
Repeat back what they’ve said
Summarize their story
When you give a person your undivided attention they’ll feel that you hear and value them and they’ll see you in a different light. Whether you’re speaking with a child, friend, family member or co-worker you’re creating an opportunity to have a deeper more meaningful relationship.
Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said: The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence.