Monthly review – tips for mindful listening

When I set my goal and habits for this year, I wrote the following:

Sometimes listening can be hard. I think I know what the kids or others are going to say, I have things on my mind, I have something I want to say or I have things I would rather be doing than listening then and there.

Mindfully listening to others shows that you value them and it empowers them to share exactly how they are feeling. I want my kids to tell me about their dreams, their hopes, their fears and their crazy ideas. This won’t happen if I am not really listening.

So even while I knew mindful listening was important, it has only been since intentionally practicing mindful listening over the last few months have I seen the true power it has. I have been far from perfect in terms of my listening, but I have improved significantly and that makes me happy.

So how is mindful listening powerful? It is powerful because:

  • It shows you are present.
  • It allows space for emotions to be shared.
  • It reduces conflict.
  • It signals to those speaking that their thoughts are valued.
  • It makes kids feel loved.
  • It shows respect.

A recent example of the power of listening from daily family life was when one child was very angry and having an emotional outburst. The outburst was a combination of tiredness and finding the behaviour of their siblings irritating. I went to the child with the intention to just listen to them, to try and work out what was going on. I sat on the bed and just said “you seem really angry, do you want to tell me about it?”. The child then poured out all that was bothering them. I didn’t try to solve the problem, I didn’t tell them how to behave or what to do. I just looked at them intently and listened. They talked themselves out and I said that I could see why they felt angry and that living in house with seven people can be frustrating some times. I could literally see the tension drop from their shoulders and some calmness come over them. The wave of anger had subsided and they hugged me and thanked me for understanding. I left the room and the house regained its calm.

The conflict in the house subsided quite quickly because I went to listen with intention. A huge difference from how sometimes I have approached situations like this. I didn’t go to the child and ask what was going on with an already formed speech along the lines of “regardless of the situation their behaviour was out of line and needed to stop etc”. I didn’t go into the room with an intention to reprimand or to change their mood, I went to listen to what was obviously a child calling out to be listened to.

I have also been practicing some mindful listening strategies that I picked up from a recent podcast (links in the additional resource section below):

  • The podcast help me realise that mindful listening is very much like meditation. When I am meditating my mind will wander, but the practice of meditation is not to judge this, but to simply recognise it and then redirect yourself back. This has been a game changer for me when listening to people. There are times when my mind still wanders, but I will recognise that I am not really listening and I will redirect myself back to intentional listening.
  • For times when I find myself starting to form in detail what I want to say in reply to the person who is talking, I use the short mantra “it’s their turn” to guide myself back to really listening to what they are saying, not just biding time until they finish talking so I can say what I want to say!
  • I am making a conscious effort to go into challenging conversations with a willingness to be changed by what I hear. I can be quite head strong, so have a history of going into particular types of conversations with my mind firmly set and a determination not to change it! It is hard to really listen to what someone is saying if you are not opening your mind to their ideas.

I feel like I have learnt a lot this month that will deepen my practice of mindful listening. I can already see how this is having a positive impact on my goal of detaching from the old and embracing the new, which is encouraging me to keep working on this, even when I find it super hard.

What did you learn in April?

My monthly progress towards my goal

HabitConnection to goal - Detach from the old and embrace the new to nurture a family spirit of adventure.Poem quoteApril Review
Practice detachment dailyMy attachment comes from the right place in terms of wanting the best for my family and myself, but it can be founded on beliefs that I hold that are not necessarily true or helpful. Letting go of this belief and creating a new one requires me to detach.

Detaching doesn't mean I stop caring or give up but it means I acknowledge it, explore it, process it, take action to move on and let it go.

Letting go of old or untrue beliefs will mean I can focus on being more supporting and encouraging to the kids.
"For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business."
~ T.S. Eliot
After a pretty ordinary month in March, I made great progress in April and this progress was a direct result of my meditation practice.

When doing guided meditations, I chose many which were on the topic of letting go and detachment and when meditating on my own, I would repeat a mantra about letting go. (See the additional resources section of this post for the meditations I listened to.)
Develop the practice of mindful listeningSometimes listening can be hard. I think I know what the kids or others are going to say, I have things on my mind, I have something I want to say or I have things I would rather be doing than listening then and there.

Mindfully listening to others shows that you value them and it empowers them to share exactly how they are feeling. I want my kids to tell me about their dreams, their hopes, their fears and their crazy ideas. This won’t happen if I am not really listening.

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
~ E.E. Cummings
I listened to some great talks on mindful listening this month and they were fantastic for giving me strategies to improve how I listen. As noted in the post above!
Do something new each month with the familyI love routine and being organised and sometimes I will take the option to spend time on these activities and not leave enough time for exploring something new.

This year I want to try some big and little adventures with the family.
"Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead."
~Rose Milligan
There were lots of new individual endeavours for the family as a new sporting season kicked off for the kids, Phil completed a half iron man and I completed my first Spartan Trifecta of the year but unfortunately we didn't do anything together.

This was a planning error on my part. By the time I thought about what we could do in April once the kids were back at school, there wasn't a pocket of time that we could use. Key learning for me is to make sure I plan some time ahead for this.
Use deliberate daily practice to learn something new each monthK. Anders Ericsson, a professor of Psychology at Florida State University, is a pioneer in researching deliberate practice. One of his core findings is that becoming an expert at a skill has more to do with how you practice rather than with just performing the skill many times.

To really embrace a new skill I need to intentionally practice, not just do the skill to tick the box to say I have done it. This is a practice I really want to develop and role model for my kids.
"Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that is a ring on the door.
Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there."
My deliberate practice this month was on Spartan skills. In Spartan races the running part comes more naturally to me and the obstacles are very much the challenge.

Previously when following my training plan, I have just completed the workouts without really thinking about how the movements I was doing would translate into the obstacles. This month I thought about how they would translate and was more intentional in how I executed the movements - this then carried over to my performance in the race, with the Brisbane Beast being my best race this year.
Develop a monthly decluttering habitOur house is relatively uncluttered but we really do have too much stuff.

All this extra stuff takes up space, time and energy - all of which I can reclaim and redirect when I declutter.
"The open space surrounding me
Clears my lungs
Makes me breath
I feel light
Vividly bright and empty
A room to dance in happily"
~Anna Elise
My work desk and files were the focus of my decluttering this month.

Next month it will be my wardrobe again as I swap over from summer to winter wardrobe.

Additional resources to explore

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Comments 2

  1. Congratulations on making such progress. We are discussing this very topic at our church while reading the book 42 Seconds- so this was a very timely post to come across! Even after discussing “listening and not fixing” in depth at church, I went on to fix and reply all.week.long. I’m going to check out some of your meditation links and see if I can incorporate them at prayer time- thank you!

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