Want to improve your relationships and feel closer and more connected to those around you? Then today’s post is written just for you. One of the simplest and most effective things you can implement today to make a positive impact in your relationships is to practice mindful listening. What is mindful listening? It is the practice of a non-judgmental awareness of the present moment as you are taking in the experience of listening to another human being. Why is this so important in relationships? Because many of us have lost the art of listening due to the barrage of distractions we face on a daily basis. But this doesn’t have to be the case going forward. Truly listening to your friends, family members and spouse will have a transformative impact on your relationships. Here are some tips for getting started:
1 | Reduce distraction
Whether this means powering down devices, finding a quiet locale or waiting until the kids go to bed before having that deep convo, create an environment conducive to mindful listening. This will be half the battle. Yes, this includes setting down the book, magazine or anything that will physically get in the way of you being completely present to the interaction with your loved one.
2 | Curb your reactions
Often when we are listening to someone talk, we have knee-jerk reactions to what they’re saying. Maybe we have had a similar experience and want to share it, or perhaps we have a piece of advice we’d like to impart. Unfortunately, if we are too attached to the idea of conveying a piece of information to them, we can lose focus on what they’re saying right now. Instead, put your story or advice on the backburner and continue to concentrate on what the person is saying.
3 | Focus on sensations
If you find yourself zoning out and disappearing off into the “thinking mind,” while listening to someone speak or lecture, bring yourself back into the present by focusing your awareness on in-the-moment physical sensations, such as your breath, tactile sensation, the sound of the person’s voice, or the visual stimuli around you. This centering practice is like a re-set button for your ability to attend to incoming information.
4 | Use self-talk
One obstacle for mindful listening is if we’ve become emotionally triggered by what has been said. To tackle this, practice “positive self-talk” – which is a type of internal conversation where you calmly talk yourself through a difficult situation. Let’s say a friend is giving you some constructive feedback on a project and you’re starting to take the information as a personal attack on your talents. This is going to make it difficult for you to fully listen to your friend. In this instance, say something kind to yourself, such as “Your friend is trying to help you. It’s okay. You’re doing a good job.” Having this soothing conversation with yourself will allow your emotions to settle enough to bring you back into the moment with your friend.
5 | Connect to intention
Remember your reason for mindful listening – is it that you want to connect more deeply with the people around you? Is it to absorb information fully? Is it part of a general mindfulness practice? Reminding yourself of why you chose to listen mindfully will help you along the practice.
Now I’d love to hear from you. Where are you on the mindful listening spectrum? Are you towards the “I’m already doing this!” side, or on the “Oh wow, I need to put the screen down” side? No judgments here! Please share your ideas for how you’ve made positive changes in the direction towards being more present in your relationships. Want to learn more? Check out how young adults are benefitting from mindfulness practice, meditation resources local to L.A. and/or online mindfulness tools. Take good care and be well.
about the author
Hi! I'm Natalie. And my passion is helping people live more peaceful, meaningful lives. Through holistic therapy in Pasadena and here on the blog, my mission is to provide people with the support and tools they need to live their best life.