No matter how much you love and respect certain people, it can sometimes be quite hard to accept them as they are. In a romantic relationship, you might despair that your partner is not more this way or that way. In raising children, you might work hard to make sure they turn out "right," and be disappointed when they develop some qualities that just weren't quite part of the plan. You can be disappointed with your parents, too—spending years in therapy wishing you had different ones.
Even employers, who spend so much money and time finding the right employees, seem not to be very interested in them as people. So many work environments require you to leave your true self at home.
All relationships suffer when we need the other person to be a certain way in order to meet our own needs, or to protect us from facing something, or to reinforce our own point of view. All relationships are diminished whenever we restrict someone else's full humanity.
There are many ways to correct this. For today, we will look just at listening.
People know when you're not really listening. People can feel it when you are not really interested—when you are really paying attention to the television or waiting for a phone call. People can sense when you are rushing in with solutions that they haven't asked for, or when you interrupt them to argue or refute because you are threatened by what they are saying. And they appreciate it deeply when they feel truly heard.
One way to listen better is simply to do a moment of meditation before any important conversation. Take a moment before your child comes home from school to open yourself to who he might be today. Take a moment of meditation before sitting down with your partner for that difficult conversation. Take a moment—before you meet with your clients, your employees or your colleagues and committees—to clear your mind and prepare yourself to listen without preconceptions. Learn to set aside your own point of view for a while.
There's no harm in showing the other person that you are doing this. There is no harm in saying, for example, "Before we start this conversation, I'd like to do a moment of meditation to make sure I am really present for you." This shows the other person you are willing to stop what you are doing for her, and that you are going to give her your full attention.
There is another great benefit to this practice. You are learning to grant other people the opportunity to be different from who they were previously, or rather, to be different from who you thought they were previously. For you are not the only person who is growing and changing and trying out new ways of being.
If you treat other people based only on your previous experience of them, you might fail to see a different side of them. You might fail to see how they are changing, and you can even inhibit them from making those changes. Having put them in a box, you are now just keeping them in that box.
But everything is in motion, and everyone is changing. Each person has moments in which her highest self shines through, no matter what she's done before. And if you provide some real space for other people to be themselves, they might just surprise you.
So today, just try to do a moment of meditation before each important conversation, for the best way to help someone else is to clear your mind and make room in your heart. Martin Boroson is a playful, practical new voice in the next wave of meditation teachers. Author of
One-Moment Meditation: Stillness for People on the Go, he lectures on the benefits of a meditative mind for decision-making and leadership. Marty studied philosophy at Yale, earned an MBA from the Yale School of Management and is a formal student of Zen. Visit his website for One-Moment Meditation® help and resources, tweet him at @takeamoment or find him on Facebook.
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Don't miss a moment! Go to the archive pageDid you try meditation before an important conversation or meeting? Did it help you? Did it help the people around you? Let us know how it's going—leave your comments and questions below!