Have you ever heard someone tell you something, but you weren’t really listening? Or maybe you heard them but didn’t truly understand what they were saying? Mindful listening is an important communication skill that can help us pay full attention and really understand what the other person is saying.
Or maybe you’ve been told that you are a great listener, but you really don’t know what that means. Being a mindful listener requires focus and concentration, as well as the ability to be in the present moment.
In this post, we’ll explore the concept of mindful listening, how to use it in everyday or difficult conversations, and why it’s an important skill.
Listening: An Art Form
The average person speaks around 125-150 words per minute, while we can listen at an average pace of 400-500 words per minute. This means that when someone is talking to us, we are processing the words much faster than they can give them to us.
That’s why listening is such an art form. It’s not just about hearing the words but understanding them deeply. The most effective way to do this is through mindful listening.
The Basics of Mindful Listening
Active listening emerged in the 1940s and 50s as a counseling technique, where the listener pays attention to and interprets verbal and non-verbal messages with the goal of understanding the speaker’s feelings and meaning.
Over time, active listening became a popular method of communication in business, education, and interpersonal relationships. Mindful listening, which is a form of active listening, is an intentional practice where you focus on being present and attentive to what someone is saying.
When engaging in mindful listening, you pay close attention to the person speaking, observe their body language and vocal tonality, and consider how what they are saying might make them feel. You also reflect on the impact of the words being said and try to understand what they are really trying to communicate, even if it doesn’t come out in the words they are actually saying.
When we are mindful listeners, we listen with an open mind, without any judgments or assumptions. We also make sure to ask clarifying questions if something is unclear.
The Benefits of Mindful Listening
There are many benefits to being a mindful listener. Not only do we gain a better understanding of what is being communicated, but we also have an opportunity to build stronger relationships. Below is a list of the most common benefits of mindful listening.
When people feel heard, they are more likely to communicate openly and honestly without fear of judgment or criticism.
When we take the time to really listen to what someone is saying, it gives us an opportunity to understand their perspective.
Mindful listening helps us to be more empathetic and compassionate towards others, as we can better understand their emotions and feelings.
Mindful listening allows us to be in the moment and helps reduce stress and anxiety by focusing on the present.
By actively listening to someone, we build stronger relationships as we show that we are interested and engaged in what they have to say.
How to Practice Mindful Listening
Like many communication skills, mindful listening can be developed over time. Here are a few tips on how to practice mindful listening:
Take your time
Make sure to take your time and really focus on what the person is saying. Rushing through can make it difficult to fully understand what is being communicated, and the speaker will take a hint that you are not really listening.
Focus on the speaker and their words. Listen to the words they are using and observe their body language. Are they using a lot of hand gestures or speaking in a softer tone? How frequently do they say certain words? What are the types of emotional reactions you see?
Show you care
Let the speaker know that you listen intently and are interested in what they have to say. Acknowledge the speaker by nodding and making eye contact. Ask meaningful questions to show you’re engaged in the conversation.
Put your phone away, avoid multitasking, and stay focused on the conversation. Otherwise you will not be able to pick up on non-verbal cues and other important details.
Don’t judge or offer advice
Be open and curious about the speaker’s perspective, but also be mindful of your own thoughts and opinions. Do not “listen to reply” and try to avoid offering advice or judgement. Instead, focus on understanding their feelings and point of view. You can respond with phrases like “I’m listening”, “Tell me more about that”, or “What do you think?”
Mindful Listening: A Step-by-Step Guide
In this section, we provide a scenario and step-by-step guide for mindful listening. These mindful listening exercises can help you remember all the possible scenarios where you can spend practicing mindful listening.
Scenario 1: Your friend is telling you about a difficult situation they are going through. They are feeling overwhelmed and confused.
Step 1: Make sure you are in a comfortable environment. Find a quiet place to sit down, turn off any distractions, and take a few deep breaths to help you relax.
Step 2: Prepare to listen. Open your mind and heart to the speaker and be ready to really listen. This means no judgements or assumptions; just empathy and understanding.
Step 3: Show you’re engaged. Use body language, facial expressions, and nods to show that you are interested in what the speaker is saying. Paying purposeful attention will help you do this naturally.
Step 4: Ask meaningful questions. If there are any unclear points or if you want to know more, ask questions that demonstrate your understanding.
Step 5: Listen carefully. Take note of any non-verbal cues and pay attention to the speaker’s tone of voice and choice of words.
Step 6: Summarize and reflect. Once the speaker is done, take a moment to summarize what was said and provide your reflections on the conversation. This lets the speaker know that you were really listening and understand their perspective.
Scenario 2: You are involved in a heated argument with a colleague about a project.
Step 1: Take deep breaths. Notice your physical reactions and take a few deep breaths to help you stay grounded.
Step 2: Try to shift the focus away from the argument. Ask open-ended questions and try to shift the focus away from the disagreement. This may be difficult to do right away, but it can help to move the conversation forward. You may need to request some time to discuss the situation at a later point.
Step 3: Don’t take things personally. Remind yourself that this disagreement is about the project and not a personal attack. Be mindful of your own thoughts and feelings, but don’t let them cloud your judgment.
Step 4: Listen with empathy. When you have cooled down, listen carefully to the other person’s perspective. Listen with an open mind and be curious about their point of view. Earlier, you may have been too focused on your own perspective; this is a chance to make some progress.
Step 5: Speak your truth. Once you have heard the perspective of the other person, share your own thoughts. Speak with kindness and respect, and be mindful of the other person’s feelings. Mindful listening doesn’t mean you have to be silent; it’s important to express yourself as well.
Step 6: Find common ground. Find something that you can both agree on and build upon that. This can help to reduce tension and create a more positive atmosphere.
Scenario 3: You are mediating a disagreement between two loved ones.
Step 1: Identify the problem. Ask each person to explain their perspective and try to identify the root of the disagreement.
Step 2: Be an active listener. Listen to both sides carefully and ask questions about points of confusion.
Step 3: Don’t take sides. Refrain from offering your opinion on the disagreement and try to remain impartial.
Step 4: Encourage open dialogue. Create an environment of openness and safety by using non-judgmental language and positive reinforcement.
Step 5: Reiterate each person’s perspective. Allow each person to express their opinion fully and reiterate the points raised to ensure understanding.
Step 6: Determine a resolution. Discuss potential solutions that both sides can agree on and help each person to reach a mutually beneficial resolution. This may take time, but it will be worth it in the long run.
Listen to Yourself, Too
Practicing mindful listening is more than just memorizing the steps outlined above. Mindful listening increases when we are able to listen to ourselves. This means being aware of our feelings, thoughts, and reactions in a conversation, and even in our day-to-day life.
Below, we’ve included a few additional tips to help you become a better listener:
Take care of your own mental health
Mindful listening can be emotionally and mentally exhausting, so make sure to take time for yourself and practice self-care. It’s also paying attention to your needs– whether it’s taking a break and doing something calming or spending time with friends and family to center yourself, find what works best for you. Get good sleep, eat healthy meals, do mindfulness meditation, and stay active.
Practice mindful listening in all conversations
Mindful listening can be applied to any conversation or interaction. It doesn’t have to be a heated argument or a deep conversation. Keeping the focus on listening and understanding can help you stay present in all situations.
Say no sometimes
It’s okay to say no if you don’t have the capacity to listen. If you feel overwhelmed by a situation, it’s important to take the time to assess your feelings and provide yourself with what you need. Self-awareness is key.
Help in other ways
Sometimes, it’s hard to know how to respond in a situation. If you’re not sure what to say, try offering practical help, such as bringing food or running an errand. This can show that you still care even if you don’t have the words.
Mindful Listening Is A Journey
Remember, to mindfully listen is a journey – and it’s one that takes practice. When it comes to disagreements and emotional conversations, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s important to stay open-minded and try different approaches to see what works best. With time and patience, you can become a better listener and improve your relationships.