How To Become A Mindful Listener
The Art Of Listening With Intent
If we were meant to talk more than listen, we would have two mouths and one ear.
- Mark Twain
Across most of my posts, you might have observed a theme, especially around being a good listener and the importance of listening with intent.
What does “listen with intent” even mean?
When leading teams and managing people, it is key to develop the skill of listening. Listening with intent is when you listen to people with an intention to try and understand them and their perspective without judgment or personal bias.
It is easy to define it but difficult to practice.
As a leader you should always be attentive when listening and put all your other thoughts aside. Give the time and safe space to the person trying to articulate their thoughts to you. Don’t be in a rush to reply. In most cases, if a person feels heard, they feel much lighter. It takes a lot for a person to come up and speak to their leader. They have been preparing before they come up and you don’t want their efforts to go to waste only because you were impatient.
You are listening to learn.
Empathy is the key to listening. You are putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. If you see the person fumbling, searching for words or repeating, give them time. They are probably searching for the right words and want to ensure that they don’t miss anything they want to express. They are trying to bring their best, forward.
It is important to remember, when conversations are difficult for an individual, and they come to you, their leader, they are more or less not going to be able to open up completely. On their way to you, their minds would have already played with them to filter out most of the things they wanted to say. When you see that they are stuck and are unable to open up, prompt them with an open ended question, but don’t lose track that it is about them.
So, always wait for them to finish and mirror them by summarizing what they said in a calm and collected manner. Your tone is crucial. There should be no judgment. You are only summarizing to give the other person the confidence that you have understood them. Confirm your understanding with them and correct it based on feedback. Once they know that you have understood what they had to share, they will be at ease.
There is a difference between listening and agreeing. Ensure that when you are listening, you are focusing on discovering. You are discovering all that the other person wants/intends to say. You are not assuming and since you are not judging, you should not be thinking of agreeing or disagreeing.
Don’t rush for a solution. Take your time to work through all the facts you have discovered before you suggest a solution or come up with a response.
As leaders, you should practice listening with intent at every possible opportunity and practice is what will make you a Mindful Listener.
To summarize, here are a few things you could practice to become a Mindful Listener:
Listen without judgment or personal bias
Don’t listen to reply
Listen to learn
Empathy is key
Focus on discovery
Always summarize your understanding
I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts!
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