When we listen, we are often present there physically but not mindfully. Most of the times, we don't listen carefully because we can't stop our own "mental chatter". Endless thoughts are flowing into our heads that start with judging what we hear, let us decide on our agreement or disagreement, and plan what exactly we should be answering. At some point, we realize that we have not even heard half of what the other person shared with us.
Sometimes we interrupt the conversation, become impatient, or share our opinions completely unprepared because we have not fully heard what has been said. And we behave most often like this with closest ones.
It is interesting and enlightening to see what symbols do the Chinese word "listen" consist of.
At the top part of the word we have the symbols for ears (I hear) and eyes (I see).
We use our ears to listen, paying attention not only to the words spoken, but also to the tone of voice, the speed, and the emphasis, in order to understand a person's engagement and enthusiasm about the topic. If a person talks fast, load, we know that he is engaged and interested in the topic. If the tone of voice is more monotonous or slow, with no moments of emphasis, with less modulation, we can assume that the person does not have too much interest in the topic. Just using our hearing effectively while listening helps us to understand a lot!
We use our eyes to connect with the person we are listening to and pay attention to. Through the eyes we observe the body language of the speaker to get a better understanding of him. Is he using too many gestures? It also tells us a lot about the level of confidence and enthusiasm of the speaker.
At the center of the word, the Chinese have placed the symbol of undivided attention (I focus). We think faster than we speak, and as a result we tend to fill in the gaps with our internal "mental chatter". In order to listen mindfully, we need to stop the mental chattering and focus entirely on the conversation.
At the bottom of the word, the Chinese have put the heart symbol (I feel).
Empathy comes from the heart. We connect emotionally with the speaker thanks to our heart, that makes us compassionate.
The Chinese word for listening is so interesting because it contains an ancient wisdom showing us all the basic elements of mindful listening.
We humans are social beings – our communication never stops. This gives us endless opportunities to practice mindful listening.
Here's a challenge for you - the next time you're with a loved one or colleague, approach the conversation as a mindful listening exercise. Just see if you can listen with undivided attention. Hear and see what they are telling you. If you are practicing meditation, you already know that when your mind is distracted, without judgment, you need carefully to let go your thoughts and focus again on listening.
And just like happiness, mindful listening is contagious. If you manage to do it, you will probably soon notice that people are listening to you the same way.
The greatest gift we can make to others is giving them our undivided attention. In a world filled with so many problems and hurdles, mindful listening helps us to give and receive true love and attention in our lives.