To be mindful is to be present in the moment. Mindful listening means being present in the conversation, without assumptions or conclusions, and without trying to anticipate what your partner is going to say, or without ‘reading into’ the conversation (assuming things that weren’t really said).
Mindful listening is a practice that involves fully focusing your attention on the speaker and being present in the moment during a conversation. It goes beyond simply hearing the words spoken and involves a deep, non-judgmental awareness of the speaker’s words, tone, and body language. The goal of mindful listening is to understand the speaker’s message without immediately formulating your own response or judgment.
The list below covers 12 basic Mindful Listening Skills. Before beginning any mindful communication, first ask yourself two questions:
1. What am I trying to accomplish by having this conversation?
2. Is what I’m about to say going to accomplish this goal?
Once you have clarified your objectives with these questions, the Mindful Listening list below will help you to listen effectively.
The first step in being a good communicator is to be a good listener. Here are some Mindful Listening tips to help you improve your listening skills:
- Stop what you are doing and give your full attention to the person.
- Look at the other person. Make eye contact. Be in the moment with him/her, without thoughts about past problems or future worries.
- Be silent. Allow the other person to speak in their own way and in their own time. Don’t’ interrupt. Don’t anticipate what they’re going to say. If you’re thinking ahead to how you’re going to respond, or trying to figure out what they’re going to say next, you’re not paying attention. You’re not listening in the moment.
- Use phrases that encourage the other person to problem-solve. “What do you want to happen in this situation?” or “How can I help in this situation?” Don’t assume what they expect to happen. Let them tell you.
- Avoid the temptation of making the other person’s choices for them. Allow them to reach their own conclusions.
- Acknowledge that you are listening by reflecting back what you hear.
- Use open-ended questions that encourage the other person to keep talking. “Tell me more about that,” or “How did you feel when that happened,” or “Then what happened?”
- Pay attention to the other person’s non-verbal language. Does the other person look attentive? Is the other person happy, sad, afraid, anxious or confused?
- Listen for and name feelings you think you hear from the other person. Confirm that this is indeed what the other person is feeling by checking in with them: “Sounds like you were angry about that,” or “You seem to be really happy about that!”
- Don’t try to tell the other person what they’re feeling! Don’t deny, discourage, or minimize their feelings. Instead, model positive behaviors as an alternative to not-so-positive behaviors. Don’t tell them how they feel. Let them tell you!
- Remember that there is a difference between validating the feeling and validating the behavior! There is no such thing as a ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ feeling; the behavior that follows the feeling is where the problem lies. It’s okay to be angry, but it’s not okay to abuse someone else when you’re angry. It is okay to talk about your anger with another person, preferably the person with whom you are angry.
- Explain your feelings, but don’t use defensive statements in an effort to rationalize or excuse your behavior. Take ownership of your thoughts, feelings, words and behavior, and allow the other person to do the same.
Practice these skill and you will be well on your way to being a better, more mindful listener.