How to Practice Mindful Listening

In our last blog, we discussed the first step to implementing a mindfulness practice - Time Management. Today, we are going to dive deeper into one specific area where it is essential to practice mindfulness - listening. By practicing mindful listening, you can improve your relationships, have more productive conversations at work, create stronger team dynamics and improve your level of happiness by connecting deeper to others.

While there are numerous benefits to mindful listening, the truth is most people are not practicing it in their everyday lives.

Think of the last conversation you had - could have been a work meeting or a conversation with a partner or friend - looking back at this conversation, were you completely present and mindful of it? Or were you thinking of other things while the conversation was happening? If you are like most people, your answer is most likely no, you weren’t completely present. In our busy lives, it is so easy to get swept up into a busy routine that you lose the ability to slow down and be present with the conversation at hand. 

Most people are not even aware that there are different ways to listen. Understanding these different ways is a great place to start especially when beginning a mindfulness practice. 

3 Levels of Listening:

Level 1 Listening: This is the level most people listen at on a daily basis. It is surface-level listening in that you may be listening to someone speak but you are still paying attention to other details, thoughts or surroundings.  

Think of it this way - you may be listening to a friend talk but, in your mind, you are going over your to-do list and trying to remember what groceries you need to buy while also noticing the table next to you that is on a very awkward blind date. In this level, you are not truly focused on what the person before you is saying. You may hear them, but you are not truly listening to what they are saying. Level 1 can come in handy when you need to remember that to-do list or pay attention to directions, but in terms of truly listening to someone, it is not where you want to be.  

RESSET Tip: Save level 1 listening for times when you really need to take in all your surroundings like following directions or navigating yourself through the airport. In these situations, paying attention to surroundings or distractions going on around you can be essential to get you from point A to Point B. But when you are having a one-on-one conversation or important meeting, leave this level at the door. 

Level 2 Listening: This level is more focused on listening. Have you ever been on a date that was so good that you were hardly focused on your surroundings? Instead, you were 100% focused on the person before you. This is level 2 listening. You are invested in what the person before you is saying so much so that your other surroundings almost melt away. This is the opposite of level 1 where surroundings and distractions pull your attention away. 

RESSET Tip: Next time you go out to dinner, have an important meeting or talk to a friend or family member on the phone, practice being in level 2 listening. Put all your distractions away and focus only on the conversation at hand. 

Level 3 Listening: This level is truly connecting when you listen. Level 3 has the focus of level 2 combined with understanding, intuition, and empathy. In this level, you not only listen to what a person is saying, but you are in tune with what they truly mean. Have you ever asked a close friend how they are and in response, they say “I am good,” but you can feel that they while they are saying they are good, something feels off? In moments like this, you are in level 3 listening because you hear what they say but also use intuition to know what they mean. When you are at this level, you know to ask your friend again, “are you sure you’re good?” Chances are this will invite them to truly let you know what’s going on.

This level is vital when you're talking with someone who is struggling and can even help you spot a friend who may be experiencing obstacles they are afraid to talk about like depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts.  

RESSET Tip: Try using this level with people you are closest with. You know these people the best and can most likely use your intuition to pick up on what they are truly expressing. This level can also be important in business negotiations or meetings. Use your intuition to read between the lines and understand where a person is truly at or what they want out of a negotiation. 

All three levels of listening have their benefits. The key is knowing when to practice each one. And this is a great exercise to add into your daily mindfulness practice. 

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