Do you believe that listening is easy and requires little energy? Or that it is involuntary? Or it is the responsibility of the speaker to hold your attention?
These beliefs are a few of the fallacies that interfere with your ability to listen effectively to others and to reduce the amount of conflict and misunderstanding in your life. Often when there is conflict and misunderstanding, we are overly emotional and believe that a person needs to change. But sometimes, we are not hearing, understanding or responding to what the other person is actually communicating. Listening can reduce interpersonal problems that stem from lack of understanding, not remembering or misinterpretations.
In his book Listening Behaviors, Larry Barker suggests particular behaviors that will improve your ability to listen:
Some people begin a mindfulness practice with a long history of meditating, a knowledge of Buddhist practices and a belief that mindfulness will solve their problems. Others hear about mindfulness practice and are skeptical or doubtful that it can have any real impact on their physical and mental well-being.
Research studies conducted over the last 30 years have found that mindfulness practice can result in reductions in medical and psychological symptoms in a wide variety of conditions, such as anxiety and panic, chronic pain, psoriasis and immune functioning. But mindfulness is more than a set of techniques. In order to be effective it requires a certain attitude and outlook.
Change is difficult. Even if you are engaging in behaviors that you know are harmful or have symptoms that are severe, the prospect of change can be unappealing. At these times, it can be helpful to think of reasons to make those difficult changes.
Progress in treatment can be slow for a number of reasons. For example, you might be experiencing severe symptoms that are difficult to manage, you and your therapist have not identified an effective treatment plan and clear goals, your therapist’s skills and knowledge may not be a fit for you or you might be experiencing fear and anxiety about making changes in therapy.
Sometimes, particularly when people are fearful and anxious, lack of progress in treatment is a result of resistance to the therapy process.
In a recent post I discussed a study that found that substance use disorders often begin when people are experiencing mental difficulties use substances to self-medicate. The study focused on people who struggle with anxiety, but it’s not uncommon for people with mental health problems to turn to alcohol and other substances to get relief from painful symptoms.
Once you begin drinking, using substances or engaging in some other problematic behavior, you may recognize the risks and costs of that behavior, but still be ambivalent about whether to make a change. There are a variety of reasons for being ambivalent about changing problematic behaviors. Change is both difficult and scary. The more strongly you believe that alcohol or other substances result in positive symptom relief, the harder it is to get motivated to change.