A Mindful Listening Tip for Success at Work and in Life

Would you be interested if I could help you improve the quality of your relationships at home, with friends and at work? Would you be interested if I could help you become a better people manager?

If yes, then read on.

Let’s start with a question.

Have you ever been in a conversation that escalates into an emotional exchange of words that create bad feelings? It might be with a loved one, a colleague, a team member, a customer – anyone that you interact with.

Have you ever found yourself reacting to emotions that have welled up inside of you with words that you later regretted you said?

In days gone by, I certainly have.

But, now, I manage my world differently.

I now apply what I call “the 5 Minute Rule”. I have developed this simple Rule after being joyfully exposed to the world of mindfulness.

I have developed it after realising that I have the power to shape how I, and others, will feel in  5 minutes  time, when faced with a potentially difficult conversation.

It has certainly contributed to my happiness in life.

Let me explain.

A 70 second introduction to your brain

Let me first give you the “back-story” – the reason why the 5 Minute Rule works.

To do this, I am now going to take 208 words to explain relevant parts of your brain to you.

There are two parts of your brain that you need to understand.

First, there is your emotional brain – your amygdala. This is the part of your brain that reacts quickly, without thinking, with a fight or avoid response when it faces “danger”. In everyday life, the “danger” relates to comments and discussions that make your “emotional temperature” rise. You disagree, get annoyed, even hurt by a comment that someone makes.

When you find yourself in conversations that trigger your emotions in this way, your amygdala will let loose with “verbal punches”. You react – immediately – without thinking. The conversation becomes uncomfortable, even unpleasant. You say things that you and/or others soon regret, sometimes for a while, at other times for life.

Have you ever been in this situation? Of course you have!

There is another part of your brain – your rational, thinking brain. It’s your pre-frontal cortex. This part of your brain looks after you by managing your impulse control and emotional reactions. This part of the brain enables you to respond in a rational manner to “emotional dangers” that you encounter.

It takes about 6 seconds for your rational brain to process and respond to the situation that triggers your emotion.

So, lesson number one is to respond with your rational brain rather than react with your emotional brain.

How do you do this?

This is where the 5 Minute Rule comes in.

How to apply the 5 Minute Rule

Let’s zoom you into an interaction with another person that could lead to an exchange of words that you are likely to regret.

The first step is to press your internal “pause button”. In short, stop and fill your lungs with air. Let the air out slowly. Practice doing it now. You have just taken a mindful breath!

And, then, in your mind, ask yourself this question, “Where do I want to be in 5 minutes’ time?”

All of this – pause, deep breath and, ask “Where do I want to be in 5 minutes” will take about 6 seconds. People will not notice that you are doing it.

The final stage is to choose your response.

It might be to remain silent and to let the other person talk. It might be to ask questions to understand the other person’s point of view – and to have them feel listened to. At other times, it might be to remain silent and walk away.

In the past, I, and others, may have walked away feeling hurt and wounded after an exchange of words driven by my amygdala. The hurt, at times, lasted for a long time.

And now, by applying the 5 Minute Rule, I feel assured that I can get through the same type of conversation, and be in a great emotional  place in 5 minutes’ time.

In applying the 5 Minute Rule, you will lead an emotionally positive personal and work life.

If you are a leader, this simple Rule will enable you to influence and lead more effectively. If you are working in a team, the Rule will help you perform better and more harmoniously with your team members. Train your customer service employees to apply this principle when dealing with difficult customers.

And, the 5 Minute Rule will help you lead a happier, more harmonious and enriching emotional life with your family and friends.

Your task for the next 21 days: Turn the 5 Minute Rule into your way of life. Practice “Pause, Breathe, Ask, Respond” whenever you feel your emotions rising in discussions with others. Eventually, it will become second nature.

Finally, when you master this, you will have applied one of the principles of mindfulness – mindful listening.

Try it out and let me know what impact it makes!

Until next time.