The insights a leader can gain from listening mindfully are immense. Giving your whole attention to the sounds the other person is saying can be like rocket fuel and propel your leadership and team results into a new orbit.
Before I go any further, here are two definitions:
- Listening “to pay attention to someone or something that you can hear.”
- Mindfulness “a mental state achieved by concentrating on the present moment, while calmly accepting the feelings and thoughts that come to you.”
Therefore, mindful listening is being in the present moment, paying attention to someone you can hear, and staying focused on the other person rather than internally reacting to your thoughts and feelings.
Mindful Listening As An Act Of Love
When you are present in the moment of a conversation, choosing to listen intentionally, you create a mindful state. It is the choice to fully immerse yourself in another person’s reality that can create a genuine connection and empathy.
Mindful listening has many benefits for the listener and the speaker. It is a skill and habit we can create and like all habits (good or bad) it takes time to develop. Here I’ll explore the benefits of mindful listening and offer practical ways to practice mindful listening.
5 Benefits of Mindful Listening
As a leader, you can inspire others to succeed and overcome obstacles when you truly understand the other person’s perspective. Through listening, you can gain insight into how they see the world, their life, and their work and therefore you can be more equipped to support them.
Listening is an intrinsic aspect of building trust. The converse is also true – think for a moment to a time when you were not listened to, perhaps the other person was distracted, or interrupted you; how did you feel about the other person? When you take the time and effort to keep your focus on the other person and truly listen this will encourage others to start to trust you.
- Building Authentic Relationships
When you get to know someone, trust develops as a foundation for an authentic relationship. Genuine listening, with interest and focus, is an integral aspect of building a relationship.
- Listen and People Will Listen To You
People naturally know when you are listening. It will be internally felt and acknowledged by the other person. The human Law of Reciprocity means that the other person will be more likely to listen to you. So if you’ve got an important message to deliver, first listen to the other person.
- You Can Learn New Things
Leaders like learning. It expands your perspective. Actively listening gives you the freedom to become more open-minded and expand your horizons.
Ways to Practice Mindful Listening
Hearing sounds can be distracting when you are focusing. Mindful listening is a skill that takes practice to form the habit.
- Three Breaths
Before starting a conversation with someone, take a moment to focus on your breathing. Take your attention to your next out-breath. The following inhalation will happen naturally. On your next out-breath take your focus to your lower abdomen. Natural inhalation. On your third breath take your focus to the soles of your feet. Natural inhalation and return to your normal, natural breathing.
2. Be Present
Presence in the state of being in the moment, being aware and engaged with sensory experiences of the now.
Presence is the state of being fully in the moment, being completely engaged with the experiences and sensations of the now moment. Being present is essential for mindful listening.
You can cultivate an internal state of presence through setting an intention, practicing focus for a few minutes, meditation, and breathwork practice.
Personal, positive intentions are a powerful guide for our energy and personal actions. You can cultivate an internal state of presence through setting an intention, practicing focus for a few minutes, meditation, and breathwork practice.
Setting an intention to listen mindfully can serve as a mental commitment (or promise to yourself) that you are a mindful listener. When you see yourself as a mindful listener and understand the benefits it energises your intention. You can set the intention in a variety of ways – and you’ll find the one that works best for you – either say it out loud, say it silently, write it down, work with it in meditation or in your spiritual practices. The overall aim is personal transformation and mind mastery.
- Park Your Ego
Gently I say that as leaders it can be very easy, with our experience, to step into “fix it” mode. Resist the temptation! Instead consider including within your intention your desire to listen with awareness of your ego, experience, or prejudice.
The notion of desire to prove ourselves right (ego) is a different task than mindfully listening. Practicing focus means we do one thing at a time.
To truly listen to another person we need to suspend the ego and fully hear their point of view without personal distortion.
Give yourself a break, focus on the other person and tune in to the other person’s wavelength. Listen with all your senses.
- Two to One Ratio
Listen more than you speak. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Remember interrupting skews the ratio and we end up talking more than listening.
One of my promises to personal clients is this: “I promise I won’t interrupt you.” In a coaching conversation, I decided I cared more about understanding the other person’s thinking and I promised myself I wouldn’t interrupt their stream of thought. Of course, some people would happily steal all the time available, so having tactics available is essential.
Everything of value, importance, or quality usually takes time, focus, and effort to master. Listening opportunities are in abundance every day, so grasp everyone you can, set your intention, and practice mindful listening.
To learn more about listening mindfully, breathwork or meditation for leaders you can contact me for 1:1 coaching.