Learning to Listen

Have you ever had the experience of being in the middle of a conversation with someone and suddenly realizing you don’t know what you’re talking about? Your mind may have drifted off to think about the errands you need to run later or became focused on how you want to respond. With how easily our thoughts can wander, the practice of mindful listening is not only the key to meaningful conversations, but to a fulfilling life.

Mindful listening is purposely focusing your attention to simply observe and listen without judgement. It allows you to be fully aware of the present, letting you absorb whatever it is you’re listening to.

When it comes to conversations, studies have suggested that the average person only remembers 25% of what someone has told them only a few minutes prior to being asked. By mindfully listening, you are able to calm your thoughts, hear the words shared with you, and have the time to understand them.

It’s important to allow others to convey their thoughts fully, without interruptions or trying to finish their sentences. Take an extra moment to pause before responding, to let your mind fully absorb their words. People will be able to notice the difference this makes in your conversations with them. It’s natural to want to be heard and we all appreciate when someone works to try to understand us.

Deep listening even strengthens our relationship with ourselves. It allows us to listen to our own bodies and know what we need to stay healthy. When we’re unwell, listening helps us find the source of the issue, whether that’s something emotional or physical. Until we are able to stop and listen, we aren’t able to change our harmful habits.

The practice of mindful listening is not something that comes naturally. With our minds constantly wanting to wander, making it a daily practice will slowly change your thinking habits until it becomes natural. The next time you’re talking with someone, listen mindfully and intently. Small daily practices will let it become second nature so you can listen and wholly appreciate everything you hear.

Mindful Listening Practices

  • For five minutes, simply stop what you’re doing and listen to everything around you. When your mind wanders, just bring your attention back to the sounds you’re hearing.
  • Find a friend or loved one that you can sit and talk with. Allow them to talk for a few minutes without any interruptions and focus your attention on what they’re saying, without judgement. Then, take a moment before you respond for the next few minutes. Allow yourselves to take turns listening and speaking.
  • Play a song that you have never heard before. Close your eyes and focus on the different parts of the song. Listen for the different beats, instruments, and vocals, even if you don’t enjoy them.

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