Mindfulness and Active Listening

One of the skills that can be developed with regular mindfulness practice is more active listening and better ability to actually hear what is being said whether verbally or “between the lines”. You can become better at not just focusing on the actual words that have been said and their literal meanings, instead you can be able to better understand the true meaning of the combined spoken words and what is not said to build a fuller understanding of the feelings and emotions that the speaker has on the subject.

When listening to others many of us are using this time to formulate what we are going to say next, judging the speaker or waiting for the other person to stay something we disagree with. Often we approach conversations from the position of how it affects us when what we should be doing is trying to understand how it affects the speaker. When the speaker feels that they are being understood and not judged for what they are saying, they are more likely to open up and help strengthen the emotional connection between the speaker and the listener.

By being more attentive and listening with generosity, empathy, supportiveness, compassion, care and in a non judgemental way you can better understand what the speaker is trying to convey to you including their feelings and emotions on a subject. Active listening also involves waiting for the other person to complete what they are saying fully before forming any opinion or starting to formulate a response if one is needed.

Before you can your perfect active listening techniques you need to use mindfulness to become more self aware as until you truly understand and are friends with yourself you cannot be sure that what you are interpreting from other’s communication is not based upon your own misunderstanding of yourself. If you cannot fully understand the feelings and emotions of your own experiences you cannot appreciate those of others with any accuracy. Effectively you need to be able to use your own reliable experiences of feelings and emotions to be able to interpret and be empathetic to somebody else’s.

Even when what is being said to us may sound like criticism or hurtful we can use mindfulness to show us that we can still care for ourselves while at the same time caring for the other person and for what they are saying. Mindfulness teaches us to be here in this moment attentively with a knowing that it will be history very shortly along with all the feelings and emotions attached to what is being said. By not reacting and actively listening to everything that is being said before you consider a response you can often move past your initial reactive negative feelings and emotions to more positive ones as you realise that with better understanding comes a better perception of the other person’s point of view.

We all want to be better understood, especially by the people we care about most. A better understanding and appreciation of the other person’s point of view will lead to a more attentive, compassionate and empathetic response that will only improve the speaker’s feelings of being understood. This will likely help them express more openly and more often, only helping you to understand and appreciate them furthermore. Active listening takes a conscious effort, time and practice but with usually quick and noticeable results and is a technique many more us could learn to perfect.

A good rule of thumb is to listen for twice as long as you speak and the quality of your listening should be considered as important of the quality of your argument. Your argument or position will be stronger if it is formed upon a more solid understanding and appreciation of the other side because you have listened well. Often this will lead to agreement as many disagreements come from just miscommunication, either through what is said not being clear or from what is heard incorrectly. There are many techniques and names for active listening along with many meditations that will help you improve these skills along with help enhancing your self awareness too.

With better understanding and appreciation you will become better at providing support and care to the people you care for which serves everyone involved and relationships far better.

John Burley

John Burley lives in Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom and is the author of Mindfulness for the Mindless due for publication on 2nd April 2018. He is also the director of a software development company producing software solutions to mainly the gaming industry. He blogs about mindfulness at http://www.amindfulway.blog which has a growing following both on the blog itself, the accompanying Android app and on social media too.

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