How to become a better active listener?

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    Michael Chan

    Hello all,
    Recently, my girlfriend of two years left me for another man. After dealing with the hurt, and separating myself from the situation for a few weeks, I realized after meditation, that it was because I had been treating her as more of an option rather than as a priority, and that while it hurt, no one was truly at fault. I was not sure of my emotions, and thus ended up in this situation. In hopes of fixing my past mistakes, I tried to talk to her, and basically, lost myself in my emotions, and ended up trying to get her back. Now that I look back on it, it was very obvious that she did not want to be talking about it, and that she wanted me to leave, but I was overly emotional and just ignored the very obvious signs. This ended up in her feeling so uncomfortable that she ended up making a call, presumably to her new boyfriend, and then telling me that she was going for a walk. At that point, I understood that I had gone too far, and just walked away from the situation. I have come to terms with the fact that she is gone now. There is honestly no coming back from this position, and I wish her all the best. However, I truly do not want to ever put someone in that kind of position where they feel so uncomfortable, that they feel the need to escape. As such, how can I become more mindful in situations like these? How can I learn to read the signs that are normally so obvious, so that I can realize that I am overstepping my boundaries and walk away and collect myself before it gets too far?
    Thank you for all your help,


    Dear Michael –

    I’m sincerely sorry that you are going through this.

    Managing our emotions is one of the toughest challenges we face. After all, we’re human. Fallible. It’s as if our lives are one long “one-act play” where there are no rehearsals and no do-overs. We say the wrong things and then feel regret.

    But there are other things that you should get closer with: grace, forgiveness and understanding.

    Meaning, don’t simply walk away from this “situation” with regret. Learn from it. And forgive yourself.

    Loving someone – truly loving another person – means that they are more important to you than you are to yourself. Of course, you must still care and value yourself as a whole person. But treating her as an “option” hardly moves the needle on the love scale. And you probably know this.

    Lastly, a girlfriend of two years – that’s a long time. And leaving for another guy – that’s rough. Really rough. Allow yourself enough time to heal. And you do need healing.

    I hope this helps.

    Wishing you peace today.



    Dear Michael:

    In a future situation like this, you can meet with the woman in a coffee house, during a time when such is not busy, and talk there. That way either one of you can leave at any time. Taking mindful sips from that hot coffee or tea, decaf perhaps, can help by giving you those breaks in between your thoughts and words.



    Hi Michael
    Im sorry you’re going through this. I think it says a lot about your strength as a person that you are able to look at your own behavior and understand where you went wrong. That is truly valuable; both for yourself and the people around you.
    Active/compassionate listening is a skill that requires a lot of practice, and like anything else is harder when you are in emotional turmoil. I would say try to incorporate listening and communicating with intent in your daily interactions with people to an extent so it becomes habitual and easier to do in emotionally difficult situations.


    Dear Michael Chan,

    Below is some related information on the topic –

    When we actively listen, we listen with our whole bodies, letting nothing ditract us. We also suspend judgment and note the thoughts and feelings that are communicated to us. As with active listening, mindfulness meditation takes committed and consistent practice. In both our everyday lives and in our meditative practice, we can easily revert to old habits of distracted listening (especially when we are under stress). As a result, we can quickly fall out of the habit of a meditation practice, especially when we are busy. Unfortunately, when we stop actively listening to others and ourselves, we may bury emotions and tensions until they escalate to an interpersonal conflict or a somatic complaint.

    Book Source:
    Communication from the Inside Out: Strategies For The Engaged Professional
    Chapter 5- Mindfulness: An Attentional Approach to engaged Professionalism

    2) some good information in the below link


    3) “The Art of Listening” from the book ‘The Power of Now’- by Eckhart Tolle


    4) (http://lewishowes.com/podcast/chris-lee-art-of-listening/)

    Best Wishes,

    Nina Sakura

    Dear Michael,

    Two years is a long time. You are hurting now. How you behaved was how anyone with even a shred of feelings would – your ex too has convaluted feelings about the situation but it’s best to maintain distance. I suppose she moved on in her mins long before she ended things officially. The most obvious signs of this is withdrawal and disinterest, lack of the usual involvement shown by women…there is no lesson I can offer here except give this pain time to heal and let the days pass, live your life despite the ups and downs.

    I am sorry I am not of much help but I simply feel that these situations are such that one needs to go through the unique cycles of healing, change – friends and solitude, new hobbies help the most to develop your own inights which help through the pain.

    Try watching “500 days of summer” sometime.

    I hope you feel better with time.



    I found the following book helpful when I asked myself the same question after a simmilar experiance.
    How to Be an Adult in Love – Letting love in Safely and Showing it Recklessly by David Richo

    “We were made to love and be loved. Loving ourselves and others is in our genetic code. It’s nothing other than the purpose of our lives—but knowing that doesn’t make it easy to do. We find it a challenge to love ourselves. We might have a hard time letting love in from others: recognizing it, accepting it. We’re often afraid of getting hurt. It is also sometimes scary for us to share love with those around us—and love that isn’t shared leaves us feeling flat and unfulfilled.

    “I now understand that all the people I have ever known have come into my life to teach me about love. I am coming to trust that every moment of affection I received has been carefully recorded in me, ready for playback. The love I received from others shows me how to love those who need it from me. This is how the people who loved me have helped write this book.
    Specific memories also come through about how much people have had to put up with from me. What did they see in me that made them stick with me when I was so damned afraid to return their love? Maybe they saw something lovable in me that I need to see in myself. Their uninterrupted love also helps me trust that I must have shown more love than I give myself credit for.”
    ― David Richo, How to Be an Adult in Love: Letting Love in Safely and Showing It Recklessly

    “The grace in dark events does not emerge magically. It can happen only when we join in the forward movements of grace and march into them fully. Then we more easily resurrect ourselves from our catastrophes. Thus, grace is a gift potential in what happens. When it offers itself, it is up to us to take advantage of that offering. We begin to do this when we give up being victims of circumstance, when we honestly ask: “What can I make of what happened? How can I work with this event so that it opens me to something new? How can this serve me and others?” Part of getting to this point is cultivating the trusting attitude “If it happened, it must hold an opportunity.” As Benjamin Franklin said: “The things that hurt instruct.” ― David Richo

    “When I see I am nothing, that is wisdom. When I see I am everything, that is love. My life is a movement between these two. —NISARGADATTA MAHARAJ”

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