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Mindful Listening

Over the winter break I was at party with a talented, but rather loud band playing. I kept trying to have conversations with other party goers but I only picked up every few words. I got the gist of what others were saying, but I missed many of the nuances and details and I relied on the speaker’s body language and facial expressions to help me fill in the gaps. I realized I had to work hard and be really aware of all the ways people communicate in order to carry on the conversation. This led me to thinking about how I normally listen in my everyday non-party going interactions.

Without the constraint of a loud space or an incredibly soft speaker or a language barrier, it is easy for me to settle for the gist of what someone is saying or think I understand when I am just skimming the surface. The constraints, on the other hand, actually make me a more mindful listener. So in 2018 I want to add some constraints to my listening in order to more deeply understand and empathize with others.

Here are a few practices I plan on trying:

  • Mirror more. Make comments that show I am listening and reflect back what I just heard.

  • Ask more questions. For every comment I share, try asking twice as many questions of the other.

  • Listen with my ears and eyes. Physically pay attention and focus my visual attention on the person’s posture, gestures, and facial expressions.

  • Let people know when I am not in a place to listen. Sometimes my listening is sub-par simply because I am distracted and can’t summon the attention needed to listen. I can give myself permission to share this with the person and set up another time soon to really be present.