How To Practice Mindful Listening
If you’ve ever been in the middle of a meeting and suddenly found your attention wandering, you’re not alone. Studies have shown that although we spend 55% of our day listening, we only remember between 17-25% of what we hear. Those who do practice mindful listening, however, receive numerous benefits. Mindful listening increases your attention span and improves your memory. Beyond that, however, studies have shown that practicing mindfulness correlates with higher satisfaction in relationships.
Learning how to listen mindfully is something you need to practice regularly. I’ll walk you through the basics as well as a few mindful listening activities you can practice to improve your skills.
What Is Mindful Listening?
Mindful listening combines two different practices: mindfulness and listening. Mindfulness is about being aware of your surroundings. Active listening, however, is about paying attention to someone else—and listening well can make you more insightful and empathic. When you combine the two, you’re able to receive information and remain open-minded. You don’t let distraction or judgment affect your ability to understand people.
Think of the last time you listened to a friend complain to you about a problem. Did you listen actively, nodding along and asking follow-up questions? Or did you interrupt with your own advice, tune out after a while, or let your attention wander? When you listen mindfully, you’re present in the conversation in a way that allows the other person to feel heard and understood.
5 Benefits For Mindful Listening
It’s true that mindful listening can do wonders for your personal relationships. But it can also help your professional relationships, making you a better and more efficient worker and have productive team collaboration. Mindful listening has a multitude of benefits for your life and career as an aspect of social skills, including the points below:
- You can retain more information
We can’t remember everything we hear, but it’s important that we remember more than we forget. Mindful listening helps you retain more information from a conversation that can be useful to you later. Whether you’re learning a complicated new subject, being briefed on a work project, or meeting a new client, it’s important to retain the necessary information to do your job efficiently and find common ground.
- You have more time to consider your words
Pausing before you speak gives you time to choose your words carefully. Many of us speak hastily or out of emotion, which can lead to miscommunication and hurt feelings. Practicing mindful listening allows you to take a moment after the other person has finished speaking to consider how you will respond to respect other opinions. You may find that certain things can be said more eloquently or even not said at all.
- You can pay attention for longer
Our attention spans are terribly short, but luckily there is a way to lengthen them. Mindful listening increases the amount of time that we can pay attention by focusing our energies on the present. When you set an intention to listen mindfully, you find that distractions are much fewer and further between.
- You’ll become an active listener
Active listening is such a powerful tool in the world of business. Whenever I meet with clients, I make an effort to sustain eye contact and keep my body language open. I also show that I’m paying attention by nodding along and giving small verbal encouragements to continue. By practicing active listening, I know that the other person feels heard.
- You’ll boost your self-esteem
The best way to boost your self-esteem is to practice esteemable acts. What’s more esteemable than being a good listener in a world of bad listeners? People respect and appreciate those who offer them their undivided attention. You’ll make strong business relationships with people who see you as a mindful listener, which will allow you to see your own strengths.
How To Practice Mindful Listening
Becoming a mindful listener takes time and practice. You have to set a clear intention to be a better listener, which isn’t an easy task to do. It’s normal to find yourself getting lost in your own thoughts every once in a while–this can happen to the best of listeners. But what separates those who listen mindfully from those who don’t is the ability to take a moment, acknowledge that your attention wandered, and then redirect back to genuine listening.
Practical Tips To Enhance Mindful Listening
To make it easier on you, I’ve listed a few practical mindful listening activities and exercises you can do to become a better listener. Here are a few tips:
- Focus on staying present
This mindful listening exercise will require a bit of discipline on your part. As human beings, it’s natural for our attention to drift to something that happened this morning or what we’re doing later in the day. But in order to listen mindfully, you have to be grounded in the present avoiding all types of listening barriers. Find ways to ground yourself by focusing on the other speaker’s eyes, their words, and the tone of their voice.
- Practice civil discourse
Civil discourse goes hand in hand with mindful listening. To practice civil discourse, you have to listen with an open mind, refrain from interrupting, and allow the other person to finish speaking before thinking of your own response. It will take a bit of work to get into this mindset, but it will help you have honest conversations about difficult topics without losing your cool.
- Ask questions
Asking questions not only shows you’re paying attention, but it can help you stay on track in the conversation. Ask follow-up questions and repeat what you’ve heard back to the person for clarifications.
- Pay attention to body language and tone
Body language and tone are both important forms of nonverbal communication that can add to what the person’s words say. Watch the speaker’s body language and listen for their tone to see how that affects what they’re saying. You may find that a follow-up question is required to clarify or probe for more information.
- Practice mindfulness meditation
The best mindful listening exercise is meditation. Not only will it train you to be present, but it will also work as a way to combat stress and burnout. Try meditating for a few minutes a day in the beginning and see how it affects your ability to listen.
These mindful listening activities can help you unlock the key to being a better listener. Not only will you retain more information, but you’ll and have effective communication with everyone around you.