Listening seems like such a simple thing, but to listen in a mindful way requires intention and practice. Only 25% of our brain engages when we listen, leaving the remaining 75% free to wander. Many of us are unaware of how we listen.
Too often we listen in one of these modes:
In our busy workplaces, it’s not surprising we listen this way. Rushing from meeting to meeting our heads are often stuck in the previous conversation. We multitask in an attempt to catch up on emails or ruminate on the work piling up while we’re away from our desks.
Distracted listening is of course not only disrespectful to the speaker, but leads us to react rather than respond or to mis-interpret what has been said.
This can take many forms that include self-referential listening where we are filtering our information back to our own values and experiences. This is evaluative listening where we judge the person on the basis of the information while the person is speaking or just rehearsing what we are going to say next rather than listening at all. Filtered listening means we are missing out, not valuing the other person. It is very obvious to the speaker, making them guarded and mistrustful of you.
The benefits of mindful listening include enhancing your short and long-term memory, building relationships, and better outcomes from your conversations. By practicing being present when people are speaking brings new focus to your work and connects you with colleagues in a way that elicits trust and integrity.
Set these intentions for your next meeting and observe how you feel. You might be surprised how de-stressing mindful listening can be for both you and the speaker:
- Before you enter the meeting or conversation, take a moment to breathe and let go of the previous meeting/conversation so that you can be fully in the present moment.
- Listen with a willingness to understand the other person.
- Put aside the mobile, the laptop etc.
- Let people have their say and finish their sentences.
- Be aware of when your mind wanders and actively bring it back into the conversation.
- Breathe and pause before responding.
- Paraphrase for understanding and ask open-ended questions to ensure dialogue.
When you practice listening in this way, observe how you feel in your body, your breath, and your mind. You might be surprised how de-stressing mindful listening can be for both you and the speaker.