What is Mindful Listening?
Mindful listening is something that the majority of people struggle to master, and may need help with, but there are a few people do it naturally.
Have you noticed people in your life who you feel you can talk to, and like taking too, because you feel that they are listening.
They listen without judgement, and seem to listen to every word you say, they are listening mindfully.
In return, you hold them in high regard, and consider them a good friend, because you know they will listen to what you have to say, without judging you.
Are you this person? Or do you want to learn to be that person?
How many times have you found yourself in a conversation, at work or on an evening out, and realise you have no idea of what has just been said?
Or during the conversation you just drift off into your owns thoughts, but you still try to nod or shake your head in the right places.
You may be hearing what someone is saying to you, but are you really listening to them?
Listening and hearing
The difference between listening and hearing by definition, is hearing is receiving a sound or information by the ear.
Whereas listening is paying thoughtful attention to someone or something, in order to understand, to what is being said or sung.
To really listen to someone mindfully, we must pay full attention to them without judgement, and be in the present.
Mindful listening encourages you to be aware of the present, and let go of any physical or emotional reactions you may have externally.
Sometimes it is impossible to mindfully listen to someone, as it requires you to give all your attention, as you may be doing something else at the same time.
For example you could be doing the household chores, watching TV or being active on your computer, so is really hard to focus on what is being said.
How to mindfully listen
Next time you find that you are in a position to be the listener, try to practice mindful listening.
The following steps may help you improve your skills:
- Fully focus on the person talking. When a person starts talking to you, stop what you are doing, be it watching TV, working or any other activity. Just focus on the person who is talking to you, and if you find your mind wanders off, bring it back to the conversation, just like you may of learnt from meditation.
- Be in the present. Tune out all of your thoughts about the past or future and concentrate on listening.
- Welcome the words in the moment. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with the person or not, let them express their thoughts and emotions. This doesn’t mean that you agree with them or validate their opinion, it just means you are there to express themselves to you. Use your body language to show you are listening, and with facial expressions that are warm in nature, but neutral.
- Try not to speak. This may be hard to do, but while you play the role of the listener, hold your tongue. Don’t share your thoughts, opinions, or related stories about yourself, or even offer advice. For now just listen, you will have time later on after they have finished talking.
- Learn. Take everything in, and try to understand. The previous steps will help, because if you are not focused, you could miss something, or totally misunderstand what they are saying. That person would then feel upset that that you had ignored what they had said. If you have been truly listening, your opinions and thoughts will be valued even more so.
Benefits of Mindful Listening
Mindful listening is more than just active listening, it has many benefits.
- Helps increase empathy. When you practice mindful listening, your empathy will increase, because you will be putting time and effort into someone else’s position. Empathy is the ability to understand a persons feelings from what they have shared with you.
- Develops self-awareness. Mindful listening allows you to be conscious of your mental and physical presence while listening. Listening to someone’s point of view might change your opinions of the same subject, and this can be a learning curve.
- Helps build relationships. If you give your full attention by listening mindfully, this can create good relationships. You will get to know them better and fully understand them, the more you understand them, the more they will understand you.
- Improves focus and attention. When you focus your attention on a conversation, you will learn to quiet your busy mind, and this will spill over to other areas of you life. Making you become more mindful, which will hopefully make you more relaxed, and reduce your stress levels.