There is one thing we almost never do in conflict. We almost never do it even though it could be the most transformative thing we could possibly do.
We almost never listen to the being we are having conflict with. We use the times when we are not talking to formulate our own strategy, label, judge or mentally escape by zoning out.
One reason we do not listen is because listening can be quite uncomfortable. It may require us to sit with pain, anger, anxiety or fear. Listening also challenges our idea that a being we are having conflict with needs fixing and that it is our role to do so.
Most importantly, it is uncomfortable for us to listen to others because we often do not listen to ourselves. Being comfortable with the discomfort of the pain of others requires being comfortable with sitting with our own discomfort. Giving ourselves space to fully feel whatever is arising within us is the first important step in developing our listening skills.
One way to practice listening to ourselves is to spend 10 minutes each day focusing on our breath, while connecting our breathing, making as little of a pause as possible between inhales and exhales. As we connect our breathing, we give ourselves the space to observe our physical sensations, feelings and thoughts that arise within us. The key is not to try to change anything or do a single thing, but to be present with what is at the moment.
The practice of being with what is without trying to change, fix, connect or relate is one of the foundations of deeply listening to others. As we hold space for others, it is important to remember that listening is not about us and our experiences. Often, when we hear someone relay something that resonates with our own story, we shift the focus to us and stop listening.
So to listen deeply we must get comfortable with something uncomfortable for most of us – to the silence within us that holds the space for every thought, emotion and physical sensation that arises within us; a silence that we share with the being in front of us and everyone else. And, as strange as it sounds, when listening to another being, we are listening to ourselves.
It is in this silence where conflict dis-solves and we truly meet and support another being, by giving our full attention to that being without trying to relate, connect or do anything at all.