How to Listen Mindfully

How to Listen Mindfully

Recently my 11 year-old son talked to me about a piece of drawing he had just completed. While he was explaining his drawing to me, my eyes were on the ipad in front of me and I was nodding to every statement he made. He then paused for a while and said, “Daddy, I feel like you are not really here for me when I am talking to you.”

Sadly, this type of mindless listening happens way too often for most of us, and is often the source of many misunderstandings and relationship problems. It also sends a wrong message to the other person – one that says “You are not important to me right now” or that “I am too engrossed in my own thoughts to bother with your needs”.

It is important to remind ourselves that attentive listening is a major component in our daily conversations. This becomes even more important in relationships that we treasured, such as our relationships with our spouse and children, our parents, siblings and close friends, and even colleagues and clients at work.

So, here are five tips to remember when we listen to another in a conversation, so that we may become a better and more compassionate and mindful listener.

1. Stop whatever you are doing

It is good to remember that whenever someone wants to talk to us, it means that they have something that they considered as important to say or share. We should stop whatever we are doing and turn our full attention to that person instead to continuing with our task. This first step is important because when we stopped what we are doing and turn our full attention to that person, we are indirectly telling him that he is important to us. This habit also benefits us in the long run as it reduces our habit of being too self-centered or self-focused to the detriment of others.

2. Maintain eye contact

Have a good eye contact with the other person. This will indicate to him that you are ready to listen and that you consider what he intends to say to you as important enough to give your full attention. Not maintaining any eye contact with him sends the wrong signal that he is not important enough to warrant your attention. It is also socially considered rude to not establishing eye contact with another person when he is talking to you.

3. Clear your head

Often we start off our listening with lots of thoughts and preconceived ideas in our head. This is neither accurate nor helpful to us when we want to listen compassionately to another person’s story. What we want to achieve is to understand what the person is telling us, from his perspective and his unique needs. By remembering to clear from our head all these preconceived ideas and thoughts, we put ourselves in a better position to be totally with that person when he talks.

4. Do not assume

Be aware that we often have the habit of making assumptions or taking for granted certain things or norms as true without actually establishing their truths. So, when listening to another person, consciously set a new habit of not making any assumptions at all. This means that we will have to listen with impartiality, without any prejudgments or biases. Furthermore, if we are not sure of any facts, we should ask pertinent questions to establish the facts as truth or otherwise. Clarifying a statement made not only shows that you are listening but that you are trying to understand well what the other person is experiencing or going through.

5. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes

Empathy is key to compassionate listening. So learn to put yourself in the other person’s shoes or see from his perspective. Recognize that his perspective of life can be and is often very different from yours. Just because he is experiencing life from his perspective does not make it wrong, just different. So avoid the common habit of judging him from your own perspective of life.

If you are able to remember these 5 tips whenever you listen to another person, you will be a good and compassionate listener.

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