Listening is a somewhat lost art these days as most people are engrossed with their screens. Then there’s instant messaging that doesn’t require you to speak. Very convenient, but you have to admit it feels a lot better to listen to voices when you have a conversation.
Of course, listening is a natural skill all of us have. But not everyone actually uses it. Not everyone is “present” when someone is talking. The mind wanders. Or we are busy trying to frame a response to what the person is saying.
Another thing that keeps us from listening intently is our emotions. We often tend to misinterpret someone’s remarks—we think they’re being intentionally hurtful. Our mind is constantly looking to pick nits.
What if we focused and listened mindfully to whoever we’re talking to? How about taking a step back from our preconceived notions and listening without jumping to conclusions?
Here are five ways to practice mindful listening
1. Stop thinking of a response when you should be listening
When having a conversation with someone, listen first. Don’t prepare your answer before they have finished saying what they want to say. We tend to do this without thinking, perhaps because we don’t want that quiet pause that follows after they’ve had their say. But it is perfectly okay. It’s better to be spontaneous and take your time responding. When the other person speaks, focus on the words and what they’re conveying without judging. When it is your turn, take your time to respond.
Perhaps the biggest problem with listening is focusing, especially when the person we’re talking to is saying something boring. This makes our minds wander, naturally. Try to focus mindfully on the present moment. Focus on their words and when you feel your mind trying to get away, consciously pull it back to what they are saying. Practice this. Make it a habit. It is not a nice feeling to know you’re talking and the person you are talking to is not listening.
3. Don’t judge
It is sadly natural to label or judge people on what they say. The next time you catch yourself doing this, stop it. Listen without judging. Tough, but with some practice, you will get there. Take them at face value.
4. Let go of outcomes
Most of the time, in a conversation, we expect a certain outcome. As a result, we tend to have expectations and preconceived notions on what the outcome should be. When we do this, we don’t fully listen to what the other person is saying. Practice just being in the conversation without letting your mind run away with your expectations. You’ll probably enjoy the conversation more and gain more out of it when you do this.
5. Listen without interrupting
Oh yes, we all know this person. So enthusiastic about getting their own words in there that they feel the need to barge in, after the first few words the other person says. And without waiting for the other person to finish talking, they simply butt in and present their own side or opinions. It’s okay to want to express yourself but it is also polite to listen to what the other person has to say and wait for them to finish. The chances of their listening to you what you have to say are much better that way.
Good listeners are always liked more, are more approachable and friendly people. When you are one, you’ll find that life is much better. And that there’s lots to learn when you listen.
Remember the cliché that we have one mouth but two ears and two eyes? All the better to see and hear with, my dear.
Do you consider yourself a good listener?
Do you try to be?