Effective Listening: How to Listen Mindfully

May 30th, 2013 by Sit up a Tree

Effective Listening Part Two: Mindful Listening

Communication is a two way process. No matter how good you are at getting your point across, if you can’t listen effectively to the speaker’s reply you are missing out a big part of the process.

This series of posts is about the listening part of communication, and in today’s fast-paced, distracted world, listening is a skill that is quickly being lost. It’s vitally important then to keep our listening skills in tip top condition.

In the previous post I showed that in order to really listen you need to pay attention.  This means putting phones and other devices away and stopping multi-tasking, all of which are detrimental to good listening.

So far so good, you’ve shut off your devices, turned off the TV and paused multi-tasking.  This post is about how to listen mindfully.

Mindfulness is defined as conscious awareness of our sense of being, noticing, but not getting caught up in, our thoughts and paying attention to our bodies and to the world around us.

In fact, listening can be a great stepping-stone to mindfulness, because in that moment when we become aware that we need to listen, we are effectively becoming mindful.

Take a breath…

Breathing is a big part of this awareness.

When we have found that space and awareness then we can choose how we wish to respond and remind ourselves of the keys to good listening.

… and Listen!

This means placing your focus on the speaker.

  • Look at their body language. Where are their hands placed? Are they moving? What about their feet? Are they still? Is their body oriented towards you or away from you? Do they maintain eye contact or are they looking around or focusing on something? What are their facial expressions?
  • Now listen. It may help if you watch the speaker’s mouth. Notice how they form the words. How does their voice rise and fall? Do they speak in a flow or are their words coming in fits and starts? Is their voice loud or soft?
  • But be sure to hear their words. When we are first attending to mindful listening, it’s easy to get caught up in paying attention only to the sounds that they are making. It’s important to comprehend the whole words and sentences. If you find yourself concentrating only on the sounds and not on the meanings, draw your focus back to what the speaker is saying.
  • If you find your mind wandering away or if thoughts pop up, just let them go and move your concentration back to the speaker’s words.
  • Take the focus off yourself. It’s easy to become suddenly self-conscious, especially when we start practicing mindfulness and mindful listening. Self-consciousness and mindfulness are not the same thing. Self-consciousness is a level of anxiety that is more related to how we appear from the outside, such as wondering what the speaker is thinking about us or whether they have noticed the steps we have taken so far. This self-consciousness is actually a thought process and is the opposite of mindfulness. Let the thought go and bring yourself back to listening to the speaker, rather than trying to read their mind!
  • It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway: don’t interrupt! A nod of the head to show you are listening is useful. A verbal agreement is appropriate if the speaker pauses for one. Otherwise keep your ears and your mind on listening and use your mouth only for facial expressions on breathing.
  • That means keeping your mental mouth shut too! Now is not the time to be composing your reply or thinking up a relevant anecdote that you want to share later. If one pops up, let that thought go. It will probably come back later in the conversation if it is relevant and useful so no worry about remembering or following that “thought train” now.
  • Relax! This is important because if we are agitated or tense the speaker may feel less like sharing or become distracted. Also, if we are agitated the chemical response in our own bodies will make it harder to listen (more about this later!)
  • Trust. Trust that the information will come to you, that you can be open and mindful, not just to the speaker and the information they wish to share, but also to the environment around you and your own being.

Mindful listening takes time and practice. Be kind to yourself.

Practice mindfulness daily. Try to spend some time every day concentrating on just being in the moment.  Let your thoughts pop up as they may, but don’t follow them. Let them go and carry on being mindful.  Even a minute or two spent mindfully each day can have many positive rewards across many aspects of life – not just in listening!


  • Use your breath to find a mindful awareness
  • Look at the speaker’s body language
  • Focus on words and sentences
  • Don’t talk
  • Let your thoughts go as they arise
  • Practice mindfulness daily

Next time: Different levels and types of listening


This entry was posted on Thursday, May 30th, 2013 at 10:55 am and is filed under Communication, Personal Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “Effective Listening: How to Listen Mindfully”

  1. Sit Up A Tree » Blog Archive » Effective Listening: Levels of Listening Says:

    […] Effective Listening: How to Listen Mindfully “Help! My granny is on my Facebook!” […]



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