With the entry of the third millennium, communication has been made possible in various forms. Face-to-face talking has lessened somewhat, replaced by texting, chats, emails and video calls, to name some. But what remains important in any form of communication is effective speaking and mindful listening. In this post, you will learn what mindful listening is, how you can learn to do it and why it’s important to making relationships succeed.
What is mindful listening?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, writer, scientist and teacher of mindfulness and meditation describes it as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Mindful listening is focusing on what the other person is saying, with kindness, accuracy and support.
Many people are usually too busy to pay attention to the words and nuances of the person talking. Constantly checking on your cell phone or texting when someone else is talking to you is a sign of disrespect and becomes an obstacle to quality conversation because the person feels he has to compete for your attention. Another common occurrence when someone is talking is letting your mind wander to other things which you deem are more important, or not really listening because you are formulating your own response, especially if you have opposing opinions.
Mindful listening is deeper than active listening, where you have steps to follow, such as not interrupting the other person when he is talking, nodding and making noncommittal sounds to show that you are following, and paraphrasing what is being said at the end of a talk. Active listening is good, but it can come off as contrived and phony. Mindful listening, on the other hand, is genuine, sincere and empathetic.
How to listen mindfully
To listen mindfully is to focus on what the other person is saying so that the message is correctly conveyed and the person feels he is understood. To accomplish this, learn these pointers:
1. Be in the present.
Gather your thoughts and focus on the person you are talking to.
First, take a few moments to clear your mind of niggling thoughts or unfinished tasks. Resolve to go back to them later, after your conversation. But for now, put them on hold temporarily.
Next, get rid of electronic distractions. Mute your cell phone so you don’t hear incoming texts or calls or set them on auto-reply. Do the same for your emails and chats.
Meditate for five minutes. Bring yourself to the present and empty your mind so that there is room for the other person’s perspective. Be mindful of any impatience and a tendency to interrupt the other person.
2. Develop empathy.
Empathy is putting your own self in the other person’s circumstances, feeling his emotions and seeing things from his point of view. Here are some tips to develop an empathetic outlook:
Set aside your opinion and look at things from the other person’s standpoint. Keep in mind that every person has his own story that helps to form his outlook.
Reflect on your own attitude. What is your goal in having a dialogue? Is it to prove that you are right? Or do you want to find a solution and create a harmonious relationship? You can only develop empathy if you have an open mind.
Acknowledge the other person’s perspective. Accept that the other person has a different point of view. You don’t have to agree with him but by respecting his opinion, you are showing consideration and sensitivity for others.
3. Look out for own your nonverbal expressions.
These are cues to your mindful listening or lack of it.
A distant look, moving around and doing other things, facial expressions that show boredom and disinterest will tell the other person that you are not in the moment and will discourage him from continuing the talk and pursuing whatever goal you had in mind.