Becoming a more mindful listener can improve your relationships and even decrease stress. Dennis Buttimer, M.Ed, CEAP, RYT, CHC, a life and wellness coach at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont, shares strategies for listening with intention.
Why is it so difficult to be a mindful listener?
“There are so many distractions pulling us in various directions – demands in the workplace, our cell phones, social media and keeping up with everybody in our lives,” says Buttimer. “When your life is hectic, you tend to not listen to others very well.”
It can also be a challenge to listen to others when you are focused on being heard.
“Some people feel incredibly pressured to get through whatever the other person is saying so they can give them their own soundbite,” he says. “If you often feel impatient, pressured or not interested when someone else is speaking, that can be a sign that you are not listening mindfully.”
Signs you are a good listener
There are two ways to know if you are a mindful listener, says Buttimer:
External feedback: If people tell you you are a good listener or that they appreciate how you heard them, that is a good sign you are listening mindfully.
Internal feedback: “When someone is speaking and you are listening, consider if you feel calm inside,” says Buttimer. “Are you receptive, open and tuned in to what they’re saying, not listening to the internal chatter in your mind?”
The benefits of becoming a good listener
“When people talk, they often provide you with new information that can help you and improve your relationship with them, whether it’s a spouse, colleague or friend,” he says. “When you listen mindfully, you are saying to the other person, ‘I see you, you are important and you are worth listening to.’ You can express that by not being quick to ‘fix’ their issue, interrupting them or talking about yourself.”
Taking time to listen to others can also decrease your stress. When you are calm and patient while listening to someone else, you can learn let go of the tension you are holding.
“People want to be heard,” says Buttimer. “If you want to be heard, you have to listen to others first. Many people find good listeners to be interesting people and will reciprocate by listening to them.”
How to be a better listener
How can we become better listeners in our fast-paced, technology-driven culture?
Practice awareness of your thoughts. If you feel stressed or impatient when someone else is talking, silently acknowledge how you feel and try to let go of the tension as you bring yourself back to the present moment.
Put your phone away. If you are at lunch with a friend, at dinner with your spouse or in a work meeting, put your phone away. Technology can be a major distraction during a conversation.
Embrace awkward pauses. “People are so conditioned to fill the space after someone speaks,” says Buttimer. “By not responding right away, it gives the speaker an opportunity to continue what they were saying and to help them feel heard.”
“When you are a better listener, you will see your relationships shift in a positive way,” says Buttimer.
This positive reinforcement can propel you forward as you learn to make deeper connections with those around you.
Learn more ways to reduce stress and improve your well-being.