Listening Well Takes Practice

If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”

 Winnie the Pooh In Pooh’s little instruction book

 Photo courtesy of Ed Yourdon

Photo courtesy of Ed Yourdon

Mindful listening is an art. I found this out years ago when I went to work as a volunteer for the AIDS foundation. During the training we were partnered with someone and told to talk for a full 5 minutes to the other person. Our partner was not allowed to speak or make any obvious gestures or facial expressions that would indicate a feeling or judgment about what we were saying. It was really hard! But we had to get that our former mindless egocentric way of trying to connect with others was just not going to cut it when it came to helping someone to fully live or to die in peace.

After a few minutes of listening a miraculous thing started to happen. Both people in the conversation began to physically relax. The person speaking became more mindful of their speech and was able to form clearer thoughts. In the process we stopped getting ahead of ourselves and began to feel not just a connection with the other person, but a connection between our own mind and body. You could feel a profound sense of presence developing between us that took us past any issues of disagreement, or judgment. In the process we both felt like we really got to know the other person.

Mindful listening allows the other person to feel valued, opening the door for discussion, problem solving, negotiations, and the ability to be open to personal change as it stimulates growth in our self-esteem and self-expression.

Next time you are in a conversation with someone, take the time to mindfully listen, catch yourself to not interrupt the person who is speaking. Give them the time, attention and space to be heard. We’re all worth it!

Suggested reading The Zen of Listening, by Rebecca Z. Shafir