Do you find yourself zoning out during conversations and totally blanking on everything you just heard? You aren’t alone – plenty of people don’t listen very carefully.
When we’re listening to others, it’s easy to tune out and focus on ourselves, distractions, and other issues. But this kind of listening can be detrimental, and it can affect your relationships with everyone in your life.
Instead of letting your own thoughts take first place when you’re listening to others, you can try a practice called mindful listening. Mindful listening encourages you to focus on what you’re hearing, helping you connect with others and improve other areas of your own life in the process.
What Is Mindful Listening?
Mindful listening is based on the practice of mindfulness. When you’re practicing mindfulness, you’re working on paying attention to the present moment – you’re fully present and aware of what you’re experiencing. And that’s almost exactly what mindful listening is.
According to Psychology Today, mindful listening means being fully present when interacting with other people. Instead of tuning out their words and stories by thinking about other tasks, events, or ideas, you’re practicing mindful listening when you pay close attention to others as they speak and interact with you.
Unfortunately, we tend to only focus on pieces of what we hear that pertain specifically to us – or, put simply, we’re usually pretty selfish when listening. So, mindful listening aims to correct that selfishness by listening in new ways and changing old habits. Mindful listening requires being aware of others and communicating during the conversation, responding to all that we hear whether or not it directly relates to us. When practicing mindful listening, you’ll both hear and understand what others are saying to you, taking care to show interest.
The Benefits of Mindful Listening
Listening more mindfully and attentively to others can certainly benefit your relationships with others. But what might surprise you is just how much it can benefit your own life too.
When you put mindful listening into practice, you’ll reap benefits that include the following:
- Increased Empathy: Mindful listening allows you to truly place yourself in the position of someone else, and it helps you understand where others are coming from.
- Enhanced Self-Awareness: Those who practice mindful listening increase their physical and mental presence in a conversation, as they are more aware of what is being said.
- Stronger Relationships: Truly listening to what others have to say and providing others with your full attention allows you to get to know people on an entirely different level. Overall, the lines of communication increases, so those who use mindful listening techniques can strengthen relationships.
- Improved Attention & Focus: One key to mindful listening is remaining focused, and giving whoever you’re talking to all your attention. And increased attention and focus will not only help you listen better, but it can also help other areas of your life as you hone your focus.
- Productivity: Mindful listening can help increase your productivity because you’re paying full attention to what’s being asked of you.
How to Practice Mindful Listening
The practice of mindful listening is just that – an exercise that requires practice. Because you’re so used to listening only as it suits you (just like any other person!), you’ll need to practice paying close attention and responding with verbal and visual clues.
To practice mindful listening, try putting these tips into practice when you’re conversing with someone:
- Make eye contact. One way you can show others that you’re engaged in what they’re saying is by making eye contact. Look others in the eye when they speak, and they’ll feel heard. You’ll also be more focused on them, and this can help you immerse yourself in what they’re saying.
- Repeat what you hear. Conversations shouldn’t be one-sided, but they can be if you aren’t listening. To hone your mindful listening, repeat parts of the conversation back to the person speaking. This will make them feel heard, and it will ensure you’re listening because you’ll need to participate.
- Ignore distractions. It can be virtually impossible to step away from distractions when engaging in a conversation. Notification pop up, your phone starts ringing, and other noises in the background can grab your attention. Eliminate these distractions mentally and physically – step into a quieter space when someone wants to talk, and block out any notifications or interrupting noises.
- Pay close attention to the person speaking. Mindful listening is about genuinely hearing the other person out: their words, feeling their expression and taking note of their emotions. Pay attention to their body language while talking to them, as well as what they are actually saying, and acknowledge their opinion.
Remember, the key to mindful listening is to hear what another person is saying. Rather than thinking about what your response will be when they’ve stopped talking, make sure to simply listen to what they are saying. You can then allow yourself to digest how you feel about what is being said. And when you reply, you’ll have a better, more thoughtful response.
Like with anything in life, mindful listening takes time, and will not necessarily be something that comes easy overnight. However, the benefits of making this a priority will undeniably help with successful relationship building both at work, home, and within your circle of friends.