Do you remember that awkward moment when someone is talking to you and you’re smiling and nodding and sort of following the thread but really thinking about what you’re going to say next or something completely different?
This is an example of unmindful listening, in which the body is in one location doing one thing while the mind is elsewhere. Listening in this manner has been shown to lower performance, increase stress, and cause a variety of other issues. It can also impede communication, harm relationships, and even land us in hot water.
May we improve our mindful listening?
When we listen on autopilot, we frequently create a response before the speaker has completed speaking, or we judge what is being said, or we stray off into ideas that are only remotely (if at all) relevant to the conversation.
Just as when we practice mindfulness alone, the instant we recognize these habits, we are no longer caught up in them but have awakened to the truth that, while we may not have been present, we are the observer of the mental habit, not the habit itself.
See also: How to Practice Mindfulness Over Time
This starts, once again, with directing our whole attention to what we can hear with our ears rather than our thoughts.
What steps can you take to improve your mindful listening skills? The following suggestions will help you learn to read nonverbal cues from others and improve your own ability to communicate effectively.
1. Take a deep breath
We can also tune in to our bodily sensations and return to them if we find ourselves responding or fixating on a certain aspect of the communication encounter. From here, we must exert effort to redirect our attention to the dialogue.
This will necessitate actively releasing stress from our bodies and minds, as well as taking a minute to simply breathe and be, without attempting to do anything specific.
When we communicate attentively, we might try to hear more than simply what is stated. We can pick up on the tone of the other person’s voice, posture, and other nonverbal cues throughout a discussion.
2. Keep an eye out for nonverbal cues
Words transmit content, however, emotion is expressed more directly through prosody (rhythm, structure, and intonation of speech), pauses, intensity, tempo, and vocal tone, as well as posture, facial expressions, and even intuition. All of these signals can transmit vital information that cannot be expressed in words.
3. Maintain Good Eye Contact
Another important nonverbal communication skill is maintaining good eye contact. When people neglect to look others in the eyes, it may appear as if they are avoiding or concealing something. Too much eye contact, on the other hand, might appear hostile or frightening.
While eye contact is a vital element of communication, keep in mind that effective eye contact does not imply staring fixedly into someone’s eyes. How do you know how much eye contact to make?
4. Focus On Listening
Begin with focused listening – to meaning and emotion — then as you become more comfortable, broaden your concentration to include the entire conversation, including the overall direction and flow. Pay attention to the general pattern and see how it helps you better comprehend anybody you’re interacting with.
It may appear unusual at first since it is not our usual method of doing things, but it becomes easier and more natural with each repetition.
Of course, take note of any reactions you have to what is being said, but do so, in the same manner, you have been taking note of reactions to bodily sensations, noises, and ideas throughout your meditation practices. Accepting and letting go of these reactions may take some time, but if you’ve been practicing even a little bit, you’ll know that it’s achievable.
Start paying attention to what isn’t being said as well. Just as we may listen to ambient sounds and the gaps between them, we can begin to tune in to what is being transmitted through both words and quiet.
You’ve probably had conversations with someone where you both sat in silence and communicated deeply, either through your look or simply just your presence.
5. Raise awareness
When we practice in this manner, listening to others becomes a meditation practice in and of itself. You can practically ‘listen’ the other person into awareness by bringing this awareness to listening.