Are you the designated listener among your group of friends? If so, you probably understand the nuances of good listening. But, on the other hand, if you have noticed yourself being distracted by things happening around you and you end up asking the wrong questions or providing inappropriate responses, you may have to work on your listening skills to become an active listener.
Becoming an Active Listener
Ernest Hemingway has expressed his interest in listening by saying, “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” That is, unfortunately, the case with many of us; we are rarely active listeners in a conversation because there is always something running in the back of our minds — from what to cook for dinner tonight to how to prepare for tomorrow’s meeting at work.
You should understand that by dividing your attention between the conversation and personal thoughts, you are doing injustice to both. And this lack of attention is not really affected by age, gender or profession; we have individuals across the spectrum who find it difficult to concentrate when someone is trying to confide in them. Most of us get away by uttering sounds of acknowledgment, without really understanding what’s being said and might even make the speaker feel that we are not interested in hearing them out.
This inability to listen often obstructs good communication and the bond between the listener and the speaker. Is there a solution to this issue of incomplete listening? Yes, you could practice mindfulness while listening and you’ll notice that you absorb more than just the words being spoken; you slowly start understanding the emotions behind the conversation too.
The most important characteristic of mindful listening is to be aware of how your mind wanders in the midst of a conversation. The ability to stop the wandering and refocus is a sign of good listening skills.
Tips for becoming a mindful, active listener:
- Try not to interrupt, because it can turn the focus from the speaker to you. When you begin to understand the speaker’s words and the emotions behind them, you’ll also understand the pauses and the right time to speak.
- Listen to understand, without being judgemental.
- Watch yourself and learn how you typically behave when listening to someone; this will help you understand where you are going astray.
- When it is time to respond, do it by summarizing what the speaker just said to make sure you have the right context.
- Try to calm your mind and clear any personal thoughts.
- Steer away from external disturbances like phones and gadgets.
- Try to respond with compassion and curiosity; curiosity shows that you are genuinely interested.
- Maintain eye contact and use nonverbal gestures like a nod, a smile or a simple blink of the eyes to show that you understand.
It is important to realize that a person chooses you as a confidant because they trust you, and it is your responsibility to honor that trust and offer a compassionate ear. As you practice being a mindful, active listener, you’ll notice that you are able to understand the speaker’s words and emotions better, to ultimately build a stronger connection.
How to Be a Better Listener in 6 Steps. (2017, November 02). Retrieved from https://camillestyles.com/wellness/life-lessons/how-to-be-a-better-listener-in-6-steps/
How to Give Your Full Attention. (2018, August 23). Retrieved from https://www.mindful.org/how-to-give-your-full-attention/
Why Listening is the Most Radical Act. (2018, May 29). Retrieved from https://www.mindful.org/why-listening-is-the-most-radical-act/