Mindful Listening Skills: Hear The Deeper Message
The next time you overhear a conversation in public, take notice of how people listen to each other. You will likely find that many people tend to talk at the other person, as opposed to with one another.
Sound and communication expert Julian Treasure voices a valid concern that,
“The art of communication is being replaced…by personal broadcasting.”
Are we ever really getting the real message?
Mindful listening requires bringing an awareness to conversations that may not have been there before. It moves us beyond hearing into understanding. It is also a necessary tool for effective communication. As Julian Treasure puts it,
“Conscious listening creates understanding.”
We can facilitate effective communication when we are willing to be present in the given moment. Any thoughts of the past or future will only distract from the conversation at hand, so focus on the Now.
Practising presence and mindfulness in all aspects of life with tools such as journaling, meditation, and breath awareness practices, will increase your ability to mindfully listen to others.
There may be days and times when you feel more distracted and that’s OK. Just be aware of your distraction and guide yourself gently back to the conversation.
How does one mindfully listen?
Eliminate distractions. Don’t check phone messages or emails while someone is talking to you. You won’t receive the full message if you aren’t present for it.
Eye contact. Work on maintaining eye contact when they are looking at you. This is the easiest way to show that you care about what they have to say.
Open body language. This lets the speaker know that you are engaged when you aren’t saying anything. Sit facing towards them, display interested and positive facial expressions, and try not to cross your arms.
Sounds of acknowledgement rather than interruptions. It’s easy to want to jump in and finish someone’s sentences to show that you understand. But this can disrupt their thought process and might come off as rude. Instead, be patient enough to let them finish and use sounds like “mhmm” to let them know you’re following along.
Summarise. Decrease the risk of miscommunication by summarising what you have understood.This gives them a chance to confirm that you are on the same page.
Mindful listening is an acquired skill: it takes practice, just like with every new habit we’d like to form. And it’s certainly a skill worth pursuing.