Listen, Someone’s Talking

Your mind is wandering, thinking about something. Now it’s your turn to speak. But you miss the point of the person you’re talking with — conversation’s getting nowhere.

It happens to most people. We often think about something else while having a conversation. We think it’s fine, but it’s not. It’s being unfair to the person in front of us, even worse, to ourselves.

Listen and Pay Attention

What’s really happening when we’re not listening? Either we’re preparing for our rebuttal or wanting to escape. It could be our problem bothering us, or the new message in our inbox, or our next task, whatever.

How can we stop it?

Practice mindfulness

When I started exercising mindfulness, I realized how cluttered my mind was — I wasn’t fully paying attention to what my friends are saying; I was preparing for my response. I was more concerned about what I’m going to say, instead of absorbing their insights and understanding their perspectives.

Back then, I usually get lost in the moment when a friend was talking. In fact, I never realized I wasn’t paying attention at all. I was only thinking about myself, impatient to express my narratives.

Author Stephen Covey puts it this way: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” 

The challenge, of course, is bypassing our default actions — which is not paying attention — and become consistent in mindful listening. Staying mindful is hard, especially when we’re in a hurry, or when we want to appear wise, or when we are bothered with our life problems.

But it’s only when we stay present can we achieve a more meaningful conversation.

And meaningful conversations, most likely, lead to harmony and understanding.

Of course it’s not just about knowing the importance of staying present. Or knowing the difference between mindful and mindless listening. But also getting serious about changing our bad habits.

It’s about taking action.

Here’s an experiment: Every time you start a conversation with a friend, family member, spouse, or anyone, tell them that you want to pay full attention and just listen. You can ask them to assess you — whether you’re listening mindfully or not.

As the saying goes, we don’t learn from talking; we learn from listening — mindful listening. When we talk, we are only expressing what we already know. But when we listen, we are opening doors for new ideas.

Listening is a great opportunity to learn and grow. Don’t waste it.

Be fully present during a conversation. Don’t think about anything else. Just listen and connect.