One of the greatest feelings is being heard. And I mean truly being heard. No, a quick head-nod or a weak thumbs up in response to a story that was just carefully articulated is not what I am referring to. I'm talking about that feeling when your whole entire being fills with warmth even after you just relayed a totally horrible story because you know that you were finally listened to.
In a culture that is obsessed with quick fixes, conveying thoughts in 180 characters or less, and moving from one destination to the next without slowing down and actually enjoying the journey, it can be difficult to find somebody who is actually willing to listen to you. Humans are hardwired for connection; we yearn to share experiences with others to make meaning and feel like we are a part of something. This is achieved through communication. Effective communication is only complete when utilizing the skill of mindful listening.
Mindful listening demonstrates that we are giving our full attention to the speaker. This attention is undivided amongst the multitude of distractions that are constantly competing for us. This attention is more than physical body language, which of course, is still a very important component of mindful listening. This attention easily portrays the listener's understanding of the speaker's words and emotions. This level of attention conveys that the listener is engaged in the story unfolding and the ability to refrain from interrupting the speaker. We should strive to provide a safe environment where the speaker can truly share their story.
Uninterrupted attention is mindful listening.
When somebody talks to us, it is really easy to want to jump right into the story. Maybe they said something that triggered a reaction in us, or maybe they said something that reminded us of a similar situation. While this is normal to want to connect and communicate with the speaker, it is so important that we practice self-control and allow the speaker to get out all that they had to say before we intervene and perhaps change the trajectory of the story's path. We should strive to keep our reactions appropriate to the context of the situation.
Non-reactivity is mindful listening.
When somebody trusts us enough as a listener to decide to disclose some heavy information, it can be easy to immediately begin judging the speaker. We may instantly think of a different way to have handled the scenario or maybe alarm bells begin ringing in our minds as the speaker continues to tell us their story. How on earth could they ever have done THAT? Why wouldn't they do THIS instead? What are they ever going to do to move on from IT? We should strive to quiet our judging minds before they begin to construe false realities about the story at hand.
Non-judgment is mindful listening.
When somebody feels ready to share information (no matter how personal that information is) to another human being, know that it takes courage. An incredible amount of bravery goes into choosing to share any of your experiences with other people. In some ways, sharing can be healing and help with processing these experiences. Therefore, on the listening end, it is crucial to really be tuned in to how the speaker is acting when they relay the story. We should strive to empathetically reflect the feelings that the speaker possesses.
Observation is mindful listening.
Sometimes, we just need somebody to listen to what's going on. Whether that story is something positive and joyous that we want to share with the world or something negative and hurtful that we are trying to heal from, a mindful listener is necessary to receive the news. Not only is this skill beneficial for the speaker, but it also yields positive implications for the listener as well. When we practice mindful listening, we are more aware of the situation, have the opportunity to know the speaker a little better while building rapport, and increase our capacity for empathy.
Thus, we should strive to be mindful listeners all the time.