8 Ways to Be a More Mindful Listener
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“Mom, you’re not listening!” I’m accused of this all the time. Perhaps you hear similar things in your own daily interactions? I jump in too fast to finish a child’s sentence. Many of us need to slow down and focus when other people are talking, instead of leaping ahead to problem-solve—or worse. As Stephen Covey observed in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “ Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
Listening is a true form of mindfulness, of being present. For this week’s Healthy Habit, I have vowed to steal a page from one of my friends. Marie is a psychologist and she has a magic expression: “Tell me more.” It never fails to make me feel truly heard. Here are other ways we can make each other feel heard, in our deafening world:
Make eye contact. Focus your gaze calmly and lovingly at the other person.
Body language. Unfold your arms, face the speaker and turn your body toward him or her.
Repeat back what you’ve heard. Occasionally, paraphrase what you’re hearing to show you’re paying attention. “I’m hearing you’re upset about what Janie said at the party...”
Use neutral prompts. Phrases like: Um-hmm. I see. Go on.
Pretend you will need to repeat this conversation to someone else. This advice comes from Henrik Edberg, of “The Positivity Blog.” He writes, “You’ll be more alert, naturally start asking more questions to understand, and what is said—in my experience—simply seems to stick better. Plus, you’ll stop focusing so much on what to say next and so the conversation tends to flow better.”
Ask questions, instead of leaping ahead and inserting your own assumptions.
Punt. It’s okay to say, “This conversation is important to me; can we do it in 10 minutes, when I’ve finished X and Y?”
Take it outside. Take a conversation into nature, where the fresh air lets you both think more clearly.
I’ll leave you with this quote. I couldn’t find an author, but it rings so true, it’s worth contemplation. “Being listened to is so much like being loved that most people don’t know the difference.”
If you know who said it, share it in the Comments Section below. We’ll listen.
Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. Her latest book is Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers.