Mindful listening is a form of deep listening which encompasses listening with our whole body. Many of us, without realising it, don’t listen fully. We tend to think about what we are going to say next. We make judgements. We offer solutions. And sometimes we try to divert the conversation onto something we want to talk about.
We all want to feel heard. When someone truly listens it validates our feelings, it demonstrates genuine caring and interest. It helps us feel okay about who we are and what we are experiencing in a way that offering someone a solution rarely does.
Mindful listening is not just listening with our ears, it is listening with our entire being. It is noticing the tone of voice, a person’s body language and all the visual and auditory clues that people give us that enriches the experience of listening.
I am by nature a fixer. When my children were young and they would tell me about something someone had done to them, my first response was to make a suggestion as to how they could handle it or give them a solution. I never just sat and listened to how they really felt, which would have been far more helpful. But none of us can go backwards we can only change what we can right here and right now so being a mindful listener has become something important to me. It’s my way of saying I care about you and what you have to say.
At the beginning of 2021 five different American colleges started a program called Bridging the Gap, a program that focuses on deep listening, as a way to heal the divisions that have arisen across America. Numerous studies have shown that mindful listening generates better results in medicine, relationships, sales, and every area of life.
One of the reasons we don’t listen deeply enough is fear. We don’t want upset someone, so we avoid a subject, we worry if we ask too personal a question if we will offend someone, we may even feel fearful because we can’t offer them a solution. But mindful listening is not about doing, it is about being fully present and engaged with another in this moment.
People feel heard when you listen mindfully, and you can do this by acknowledging what they are saying with simple statements or asking questions, such as:
I hear what you are saying…
How did that make you feel?
We don’t need to feel heard by everyone, but we need to be heard by everyone who is important to us, and that obviously includes family and friends, and it can also include your boss or workmates.
Wayne Dyer summed up what listening means when he said:
“I used to teach psychology, and I don’t do that anymore. I teach spirituality. And the way that I teach now is just by listening. I listen a lot.”