How to Practice Mindful Listening

Giving someone your full attention in conversation isn’t easy, but it is a skill we can practice and hone.

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Have you ever tried to have a conversation with somebody who wasn’t listening to you? Could you tell? Have you ever seen yourself nodding and smiling during a conversation while in your mind you were landing the space shuttle? Expertly, you might add. And do you think it was obvious you were in orbit?

Of all our communication skills, listening is the one most called upon—and neglected. Philosopher Martin Heidegger identified it as a key to maintaining meaningful relationships with family, friends, and even colleagues. But what is listening? Often we hear something and before we know it we’ve labeled, categorized, and shelved it. At its core, mindful listening is really just taking time instead to experience what we’re hearing in the moment.

Mindful Listening Takes Time

I recently had a conversation with one of my mindfulness students about why he had taken my class. He became tearful as he told me he wants to nurture a deeper connection with his wife, but has difficulty listening when she speaks because there are so many things in his head competing for attention. His dilemma is that he wants to pay attention to her…