Effective communication requires awareness of the speaker when listening and awareness of the listener when speaking. When listening, are you attending to the speaker, or listening to your thoughts instead? Are you formulating your response, or actually listening? To listen mindfully is to be aware of where you are directing your attention, like directing your visual attention to an object you wish to see.
Mindful listening is like meditation. When meditatinng, returning attention to your breath is a way to return from your thoughts to your experience in the present moment. When listening mindfully, the speaker is the object of your attention in the moment. To maintain attention to the speaker is to practice mindfulness in real time. Meditation is simply one form of mental conditioning to counter old habits. Casey Dixon (www.mindfullyadhd.com) illustrates other, very simple ways to practice mindfulness.
Effective communication also requires awareness of the listener when speaking. There are times when you may be entertaining, but not interacting. You might not be self-centered by nature, but when your listener has little opportunity to participate, you are—in effect—being self-centered. You might not notice when a polite listener has lost interest and is wanting to get away from you. Sadly, you might be clueless as to why you have trouble maintaining friends.
Here is the good news: You don’t have to sacrifice your capacity to entertain when learning to interact. You just need to know the difference.