In today's supercharged society, there's a lot of emphasis placed on being fast and keeping busy. It's often hard to get five minutes to grab lunch, let alone five minutes to sit and think. But the idea that being that busy benefits you is a myth, emphasized meditation coach Michael Taft during his 2018 Dreamforce session. “Multitasking doesn't exist,” he said. “It's just a word for switching tasks and it turns out that switching tasks quickly comes at a cost.” When trying to do many different things at once, the end result is that instead of getting more done, you're getting less done, less effectively. When put like that, the concept of making changes seems appealing, but where do people start?
For Taft, it begins with mindful listening, which is a combination of being present, being non-judgmental and concentrating your awareness in the present moment. “You're not getting paid for being concentrated on the present moment, so we have to learn to do it on purpose,” he said. “Listening mindfully is a mini-superpower; if you can do it not only will it make you feel better but it will be a big deal for your career and help you achieve your goals.”
It's not rocket science that it would be better to pay more attention to the people and professionals in our lives, but many hands in the audience guiltily rose when he asked if they'd ever read an email while on a call or talked to someone without hearing what they were saying. “This is why we're learning to pay attention,” he said. “In particular, to listen.”
—Michael Taft, meditation coach
Even a short relaxation session a few times day makes people feel more centered and in control of your world, he said. “If you can do it for thirty seconds, you can do it for five minutes!” When thoughts stray, he said to recognize that and bring them back to concentrating on the sound around you. It can be hard, he admitted, but it's like any muscle—you need to flex it. Take the non-judgmental aspect. “Most of us get a paycheck for being judgmental about something,” he said. “That's a lot of what work is about.”
Mindful listening can help dramatically change your life when you use it with other people. “The most valuable thing in your economy is attention,” he said. Mindfully listening to what people say to you can change your relationships with them. “Giving people non-judgmental attention is a big deal,” he said. “That's because we constantly judge and pay attention to everything else.” When you dedicate your whole attention to somebody, you get a real sense of what matters to the other person, as you aren't busy trying to be smart or engage with them. “All you do is shut up and listen,” he said. “That's the most valuable takeaway here.”
To effect a long-term positive change, Taft said that people need to mindfully listen at least three times a day, for a minute or so. “Tie it to some other activity. Like every time you go to the bathroom, take an extra minute or two to just listen,” he said. “It doesn't seem like very much, but how much are people doing that? Zero. It's all it takes to change a day.”