Many of us are blessed with the gift of hearing. Yet it is only through mindful listening that we really hear.
What Do We Usually Hear?
You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.
We listen frequently throughout our day. Yet the skill of listening has more to it than you might think. When a person is speaking to you, what do you hear?
- You might be thinking about what advice you ought to give them
- Perhaps you feel impatient for them to finish so you can speak
- Maybe you realise that you have drifted off and missed exactly what they said?
- It’s possible you’ve already dismissed what they’re saying based on your judgement of them
This list is endless. If you are honest with yourself you’ll realise you’ve experienced all of the above. It’s common for us all to think we’re listening when we’re not really hearing at all. Mindful listening means giving our full attention.
Next time you are in conversation, bring mindful listening to the situation.
Give the other person your full attention and be curious about any internal reactions you may feel towards what they say.
Be fully present and focused. Both on your own reactions and on what that person is saying.
Listening is a Gift
Sometimes the other person simply needs to feel listened. Give them space for that.
Not only will they feel better when they’ve been mindfully listened to, but you may find you have also benefitted. When you really listen you gain a deeper insight into the other person. You might even pick up on important messages that might have otherwise been missed.
Listening to Family
If you listen mindfully, you set your intention to hear what that person is saying. So begin by stopping and listening – not just rushing round busy in the kitchen while someone is trying to tell you something.
Of course there’s a whole history behind this person and your relationship. Be curious about your emotions and reactions but not in a way that places your feelings above how they feel.
We can be too busy holding on to our expectations, need for control or our own well-worn opinions. Often, we’re not listening because we already have our judgments about whole topics and our family!
Talking About Important Things!
In other instances a person might be talking ‘at’ you.
It might be that they’re passionate about something and want to tell you all about it. Yet if you disagree or try to speak, they become defensive.This happens a lot with politics or anything important to an individual!
So if you are mindfully listening, check in to how you feel. Notice if you’re feeling angry or talked over. Give yourself a mental step back – open up the space and let them talk. Don’t get drawn into an argument.
Acknowledge them and say something like, ‘That’s really given me something to think about.’ Or if it’s something you feel strongly about but don’t want to get involved, simply say, ‘That’s an interesting point of view.’
So mindful listening is a real skill and I know this can be tricky for all of us! But it’s worth being curious next time you’re in conversation with someone. Give it a go!
Abraham Maslow‘s definition of ‘real’ listening is:
“to listen without presupposing, classifying, improving, controverting, evaluating, approving or disapproving, without dueling what is being said, without rehearsing the rebuttal in advance, without free-associating to portions of what is being said so that succeeding portions are not heard at all.”
Another useful post:
How to Practice Mindful Listening by Elaine Smookler
Yvette Jane – Mindfulness & Meditation Guide
Updated since first published in May 2014
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