Conscious Listening: An Act of Generosity

· January 20, 2019
Learn about conscious listening and show your interest in others by putting it into practice.

When a person is talking to us, they expect us to be attentive. They want us to leave our worries aside for a minute so we can focus on their story. At that moment, what they demand is conscious listening. This means disinterestedly handing the speaker our cognitive resources. This explains why some consider conscious listening an act of generosity.

We’ve all talked to someone who kept interrupting us with phrases such as “In my case, it’s different because…”, “You should’ve done this instead…”, or “I went through the same thing when…”. Sometimes their responses didn’t even have anything to do with what we were talking about.

It’s completely normal to feel bad when this happens. Being interrupted can be quite frustrating. This is something most of us go through during our teenage years. We often feel as if the world is a strange place where we simply don’t fit in.

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”

-Ernest Hemingway-

Now, there’s one thing we must clarify. This can happen both ways, meaning that you may be the one who does this to others. It’s possible that you don’t even realize it, but we can assure you it makes others feel very uncomfortable. If you want to improve your relationships and communication skills, it’s essential that you practice conscious listening.

Two girlfriends laughing and drinking coffee.

What is conscious listening?

Psychologist Inmaculada Domínguez studied this topic. Up next, we’ll be focusing on her studies to try to explain conscious listening better. As its name suggests, conscious listening refers to a listening technique we use in an active and voluntary manner. There are several elements that come into play in it, such as respect, attention, love, and empathy.

It’s about letting the other person speak, as well as paying attention to what they’re saying instead of interrupting them. It’s also about asking relevant questions so that the other person feels understood. Conscious listening represents an act of generosity and genuine interest in the person we’re talking to. Moreover, it means opening our hearts and minds so that we’re able to appreciate the other person’s perspective.

One thing is certain: the way we relate to others has changed over time. Nowadays, it’s common for us to live such hectic lives that we’re unable to dedicate some of our time to listen to those around us. This directly affects our interpersonal relationships. We must sit back and reflect on the importance of conscious listening to our daily social interactions.

How a lack of conscious listening affects relationships

Humans are social beings, which means that we like to establish relationships with others. We like to be heard and understood. If someone feels that another doesn’t care about what they have to say, their feelings will automatically get hurt. No one likes surrounding themselves with uninterested people.

Unfortunately, this is something that happens a lot and that has worsened due to the rise of new technologies. Nowadays, we spend so much time on our phones that we don’t realize all the opportunities we have to engage in real-life conversations. In fact, there are times when groups of friends get together and, instead of talking, they’re just on their phones checking their social networks… What’s the point of getting together, then?

People are now more aware of what happens online than in real life. Our obsession with posting everything we do on the Internet has lead to this phenomenon. The sad part about this is that the online world is consuming us while those around us are waiting for us to hear them.

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

-Bryant H. McGill-

Two girls looking at their phones.

How to practice conscious listening

If you want to improve your life and your interpersonal relationships and grow as a person, develop this type of listening and you’ll see the difference.

Here are some things that can help you out:

  • Start meditating: This is a way to stop your mind and be aware of what’s going on around you. It allows you to focus on the present moment. Through breathing and relaxation, you’ll realize that you’ll be able to stop the whirlwind of your mind and concentrate on one thing.
  • Listen with your body and not only with your mind: Notice the other person’s posture. However, be careful not to invade their personal space. Body language is important when it comes to expressing understanding to someone.
  • Don’t interrupt: If you need to ask any questions, wait for the right moment to do so.
  • Conscious listening is not only about paying attention to the words someone is saying. It’s also about being attentive to their gestures and facial expressions.

Conscious listening is an act of respect toward the speaker and yourself. On one hand, this technique allows you to expand your ability to be empathetic toward others. On the other, it makes the speaker feel heard and acknowledged.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

-Stephen R. Covey-