Mindful Listening can Help you Level Up at Work
Of all the lessons learned and skills acquired during my time at Edifecs, one of the most important — if not the most important — was that of listening. Those were very dynamic days, where the emphasis was on doing, and often our communication would mirror the fast pace. On tight schedules, it was so easy to go into stress mode and feel anxious about delivery. This level of thought and action left no time to really connect with what others were saying. There were many moments of miscommunication and frustration about not being truly heard. Unnecessary conflicts and errors piled up and hindered the workflow.
I would find myself realizing how, at times, the words spoken had nothing to do with the issues being spoken about. Communication was mostly driven by unconscious emotions. I wondered if, by shedding light on the motivations behind certain actions, phrases or decisions, communication might improve, leading to more dynamic and fruitful meetings as well as improved productivity.
My deep commitment to Wholistic Wellbeing made me realize early on how important it was to seek tools and strategies to improve workplace communication. Communication had to do with listening as much as with talking. By paying more attention to my colleagues and employees, there was more action because we were also absorbing the power of silence.
This is more easily said than done, of course. I remember my school days when the teacher would ask the class a question, and we kids would excitedly raise our hands, wanting to be the first to answer, competing for praise and affection, and putting validation over wisdom. Society needs to rewire our children’s learning priorities, teaching them to be attentive and mindful as well as outspoken and inquisitive.
As I have discussed multiple times, the wonderful tools of mindfulness and yoga eventually came my way and allowed me to slow down and listen deeply to my own being, which included not only my thoughts and emotions, but also my body. This practice felt so revolutionary that it became one of my primary tools for maintaining optimal health and energy.
Unsurprisingly, my introspection also increased, leading to profound self-awareness. I recognized how I had only listened to others, particularly my colleagues and employees, only semi-attentively, more interested in cutting through to the problems and anticipating how to respond. Even during silence, I was utterly focused and worried about my own response.
I learned that mindful listening is a key leadership skill, so essential for a thriving workplace. But the first step is always listening to ourselves. Becoming more self-aware of our distinct emotions, of what arises in our bodies, of our repetitive thoughts.
How can we expand this self-listening capacity and apply it in conversation with others? Here’s what worked for me: allowing a colleague to talk for five minutes without interrupting, yet remaining totally and absolutely focused on what they were saying.
When we are beginners at mindful listening, we may discover how our monkey mind travels; how it will judge what is said; internally analyzing, measuring, and weighing. After all, we are trained to understand critical responses — not empathy or acquiescence — as a sign of our greater listening capacity. We are trained to think that quick reactivity and identifying faults in the other’s argument — like lawyers in a courtroom — makes us good listeners.
But if we choose instead to listen mindfully, we train ourselves to gently bring attention back to what the person is really talking about. Mindful listening allows us to hear the colleague’s entire self and what is being silently communicated, in addition to the words spoken. Are they feeling nervous, shy, expansive, or enthusiastic? When we allow others to be whatever they are, trust grows. People open up. The workplace becomes more transparent. The workflow improves.
Mindful listening requires practice. The work yields wonderful results. Teams often become calmer, more organized, and focused on their work. Clear decisions are made, often coming from a place of wholeness that is beyond us and that is great for our relationships and the business at hand.