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The Art of Mindful Listening



Mindful listening is an art in itself. Listening requires way more than using your ears to eat up words. It requires you to pause and digest them before you burp out a response. That mindful pause is known as listening.


Many times a lot of us claim to be good listeners. But are we? One needs to realise that there lies a huge difference between hearing and listening.


What is the difference between hearing and listening?


Hearing can be defined as the act of perceiving sound whereas listening means paying close thoughtful attention to that sound. Hearing is 1 out the 5 senses which the body feels. Hearing takes place all the time. Listening on the other hand requires focus and concentration. Listening leads to learning. Hearing happens at a subconscious level whereas listening happens at a way deeper and conscious level.


As a clinical psychologist, Kevin Gilliland says, the difference between the two is like that of day and night. He explains how hearing is like collecting data. The act of hearing is rather simple and basic whereas listening is three-dimensional. People that excel at work or in their relationships are the ones that have excelled the art of using this skill.


What are the different forms of listening?


There are 2 major terms which are commonly referred to when defining listening- active listening and passive listening.


Active listening is defined to be a form of listening where a 2-way communication takes place. The listener understands what is being said and then responds to the speaker by replying with an answer or sharing their own experience.


Active listening requires the listener to completely focus and remember what is being said, observe the behaviour and body language of the speaker. Examples of active listening can be counselling, roundtable meetings, and debates


Passive listening on the other side stands a little above the act of hearing but should not be considered the same as active listening.


Passive listening does not require any special efforts. A passive listener usually does not have to respond to the speaker. Examples of passive listening can be listening to news, music or podcasts while working out or driving the car.


How to crack the art of mindful listening?


Mentioned below are some learnings to implement on how to improve your active listening skills:

  • Being curious

  • Asking good questions

  • Make eye contact

  • Remove all unnecessary distractions

  • Have a positive attitude

  • Listen without judgement

  • Don’t interrupt

  • Appreciation for the whole listening process


The takeaway


Listening, may it be active or passive, begins from knowing your own personal intention of being a part of that conversation before expecting it to be effective and fruitful.


Once you are clear with that a lot more factors like observing the behaviour of the speaker, responding the right way fall in place automatically.


Hence it is more important to be there to listen, and not just to respond...


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