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One of the first instructions students receive in yoga class is, “listen”. In our practice, listening to the instructor is how we learn, develop, and focus. Listening attentively allows us to let go of whatever is happening in our day-to-day and concentrate.

When we step out of the studio and back into the bustle of daily life it is easy to stop listening. A lot of times it is easier, or more comfortable, to speak. It gives us a feeling of being in control and directing the situation. Other times, we are simply too distracted to listen with real attention.

This is a shame, because genuine listening opens us and helps us connect. If we cannot listen, we can’t truly understand. You can learn to listen by following these five steps.dalai lama 2

Set your intention

You can choose to focus, in yoga or anywhere. When you enter a conversation take a moment to silently set an intention to listen with genuine interest.

Listen with your body

This means, focus on the person you’re conversing with. Angle your body toward them, make eye contact, if you’re in a noisy environment stand close enough to hear. If its a friend or loved one, show your attention with an affirmative touch.

Don’t rush to speak

People often pause in speech. Don’t leap in with a comment at every pause. Give the other person space to continue or elaborate on what they were saying. This often leads to a deeper conversation.

Ask questions

Show your interest by asking thoughtful questions. Open-ended questions like, “how did that feel?” or “what did you learn from that?” are a great way to let the person know you care about what they’re saying, and encourage them to share.

Don’t impose your feelings

It is  natural to respond to people according to our perception, but that can block them from sharing what they feel. For example, someone says they had a fight with their partner. If you jump in and say, “How stressful. I hate arguing!” you’ve imposed your feelings.

However, they might have been about to say, “It opened up a good conversation and, actually, turned out positive.”

The essence of being a good listener is understanding that other people are different, and having a sincere interest in learning how they see the world.

What is your best listening technique? Share in the comments!