Wake up. Check phone. Have a shower. Check email. Have breakfast. Send a text message. Brush teeth. Skype Asia…
Our world has become increasingly fast paced in a relatively short space of time and we live at a totally different rhythm compared to those who lived just a generation or two ago. Granted, there are numerous positives to this rapidity. Ease of communication with far flung friends, family and colleagues being one of them. However, we have lost the art of spending time in each other’s company and truly listening to each other. To a greater or lesser degree I am sure that we are all guilty of this and can probably recognise moments in our day-to-day lives when we don’t give our best to a relationship.
I have been involved in two projects lately that reawakened me to the huge importance of being present and giving someone your undivided time and attention. Listening to a friend, a colleague, a loved one, even a stranger.
The first was a work based massage project. Aside from running my business, Espalda Massage Therapy, I work as a teacher at a busy boarding school. I’ve been involved in a research project to determine if Indian Head Massage treatments can have a positive impact on staff well-being. I have had the pleasure of working with around thirty colleagues in three groups (a control group, an enforced relaxation group and a massage group). All groups completed an initial questionnaire to try to ascertain their perceived stress levels and all participants have had their blood pressure and heart rate readings recorded over the course of the project.
I was fully prepared to deal with the logistics of working with 30 busy individuals, with the physicality of the massage treatments and with the engagement (mostly positive, sometimes negative) of colleagues. What I wasn’t prepared for was the fact that a number of my colleagues wanted to open up to me with their worries, their concerns and their health issues as well as sharing their positives with me. I found myself in a position of real trust and the fact that I was investing time in the well-being of my peers, offering a personal treatment and seeing them regularly, created bonds far removed from the normal relationships I have with my peers.
The second project that really made an impact on me was a two day coaching training course (provided by Graydin). Although the core aim was to learn how to help support students at school through the many and complex issues that they face as teenagers, the core principles of the Graydin ‘Heart, Head, Step’ approach to coaching has already enabled me to truly listen to, care for and support friends and colleagues, establishing deeper connections and stronger relationships.
We learnt about ‘ME’ listening, ‘MICRO’ listening and ‘MACRO’ listening. In a conversation do you fully listen to the other person or does ‘ME’ listening get in the way? Do you momentarily lose focus and think about what is for dinner, when do you need to pick the kids up or get to the next meeting? ‘ME’ listening (although quite natural) gets in the way of real connection, real discussion, real relationships. Developing your ‘MICRO’ listening skills enables you to focus much more clearly on what someone is actually saying to you. You pay attention to the words and their meaning, not letting anything else get in the way. Focused, undivided attention. ‘MACRO’ listening on the other hand is equally as important. It is what is not said. It’s noticing eye contact, body language, expression, tremors in the voice, delight when someone is happy, doubt when someone is unsure, noticing the tear forming in the corner of an eye.
Employing the ‘Heart, Head, Step’ approach and the two positive forms of listening meant that during our practice groups of colleagues, that at times try to employ the smokescreen of a façade to protect themselves, opened up. People were willing to be listened to and willing to trust their ‘coaches’. By being involved in this reciprocal coaching exercise we were truly listening to colleagues, walking alongside them and making a tangible difference by supporting them in this way.
I am sure that many of use will recognise the fact that we are not always ‘present’ during a conversation and do not always give the person that we are with the time and attention that they deserve. Our mobiles are always switched on, the emails keep pinging in, the television babbles in the background. After my recent experiences I recognize the fact that those elusive times of total connection and trust are so valuable in forming more successful relationships. I’m thankful that I enjoy working in two roles, as a massage therapist and as a teacher, that allow me to be in that moment with an individual and truly learn to listen to them.
If you are involved in education and would like to find out more about Graydin’s coaching programme, click here.
If you would like to find out more about Espalda Massage Therapy and our workplace massage packages, click here.