I open with this short excerpt on mindful listening – for listening, being one of the key elements in maintaining a good relationship with another person, is also one of the fundamental ingredients in any therapeutic endeavor. Freud considered the idea of ‘evenly suspended attention’, and while referring to this concept may be stretching the point a bit, it speaks to the intentional act of fully and determinedly listening to another. Too often, I sit with two people that are unable to listen to one another, wishing rather “to get their point across” in the conversation. The consequence is that one person frequently comes to a point where their confidence is shaken, where they may feel defeated and unable to imagine a better place with the other. Rudy Oldeschulte
(This excerpt is from the April 2014 issue of Mindful magazine. Author Mirabai Bush)
Thoreau said, “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought and attended to my answer.” Mindful listening helps us be fully present for another person. It is the gift of our attention. It moves us closer to each other. It allows the speaker to feel less vulnerable and more inclined to open up to the listener. Not listening creates separation and fragmentation, which is always painful.
To listen mindfully to another person, stop doing anything else, breathe naturally, and simply listen, without an agenda, to what is being said. If thoughts about other things arise, gently let them go and return to the speaker’s words. As responses arise in your mind, wait until you’ve heard all that has to be said before replying. Try not to let your story overcome the speaker’s. Be curious; don’t assume that you know. Listen for feelings as well as the words.
And you will want to be listened to also. But when you’re speaking, if the person you’re talking to doesn’t appear to be mindfully listening, be patient. As Winnie the Pooh once said, “It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”