Mindful Listening: 3 Ways to Improve
Let’s talk about mindful listening. Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!
Maybe you think you’re a pretty strong communicator. You’ve got that soft skill in the bag.
You can give an impromptu speech in a pinch. It doesn’t bother you to introduce others or speak up in tense situations. You rarely stumble over your words. You’ve even mastered your nonverbal cues and can match your words with your actions and mannerisms effortlessly.
All these aspects of communication skills are excellent to have mastered, especially if you’re searching for a job. Communication skills fall under the umbrella of career readiness skills and soft skills. And employers specifically look for these strengths in candidates.
But before you check the communication skills box and move on, reflect on your listening skills.
Mindful Listening: Why It Matters
Think about how you act during a conversation—whether with a coworker, boss, friend, or significant other.
- Do you speak more than you listen?
- When you’re listening to someone else during a conversation, are you planning the next thing you’ll say?
- Do you interrupt regularly?
- Do you maintain a pleasant facial expression when you’re listening, or does your face tell the story of your emotional reactions?
So maybe you have a little work to do in this area of mindful listening (or active listening).
Most of us think we’re fine if we have strong verbal and nonverbal communication skills. That isn’t true at all. Think of mindful or active listening as the third part of the communication skills trifecta.
It’s critical to master your ability to listen mindfully. If you don’t, you may be perceived as impatient, arrogant, reactive, selfish, or volatile. No employer wants to hire a person with those traits.
There are many reasons potential employers might desire to hire mindful listeners. Here are just a few.
We hear 10x faster than we visually process information. It’s very easy to hear and react rather than listen, reflect, and mindfully respond. Employers want to hire candidates who utilize critical thinking and problem-solving skills. But it’s almost impossible to think critically before responding if you haven’t mastered mindful listening first.
Strong listeners are viewed by others as more empathetic. Employers need to hire people who are accepting, considerate, and understanding—especially considering the great push for a more inclusive and sensitive workplace environment.
In a conversation, reflect thoughtfully without interrupting and ask clarifying questions. You’ll signal that you didn’t just hear the information but listened to the message and consider it valuable.
When we listen to others this way, the speaker feels heard, valued, and respected.
Building Others Up
When others feel heard by a mindful listener, their confidence increases. Employers want to develop strong and positive morale in the workplace. One way to do this is to hire mindful listeners who help encourage and boost others. This benefits others, and it benefits you.
If you mindfully listen to others, those individuals will feel valued and respected. Think about the people you value in your life. Chances are, they’re mindful listeners. They probably make you feel like you matter.
When people produce these positive feelings in us, we naturally feel drawn to them.
Mindful listening can help you build rapport with potential employers during interviews. Employers who connect with you easily are more likely to perceive you as a fit for the organization.
Demonstrating Soft Skills Competency
If you can listen mindfully during a job interview, the employer will assume you have mastered that soft skill and several others.
Many character traits are associated with mindful listening, including:
- Emotional intelligence
- Critical thinking
- Conflict prevention
Who wouldn’t we want to hire someone with these skills and traits?
Three Ways to Become a More Mindful Listener
We know employers want to hire mindful listeners. They’re valuable assets in the workplace. So how do you become one? How do you improve your listening skills?
Whether you’re currently a great listener or a mediocre one, you’ll benefit from implementing these three actions while speaking with a potential employer.
To show mindful listening skills, the first thing all job seekers should do is focus on what’s being said by the employer.
This really is a good rule of thumb in any setting, workplace or otherwise. It’s especially critical for you as a job seeker because you want to brand yourself as one who is proficient in soft skills.
Before you enter the job interview setting, remove distractions.
If you’re conducting the interview virtually, select a quiet, neutral environment. Ensure you know how to use the interview platform so your fumbles won’t distract the employer. And by all means, turn off your phone. Do not even think about looking at it during the interview or during any conversation with your potential employer.
Another aspect of paying attention is noting not just what’s being said but how it’s being said. Is the employer agitated? Is he speaking quickly and appears restless? Note that you might want to keep your answers very concise if the employer seems rushed. Is the employer yawning? He might be feeling exhausted.
Most of your observations about the nonverbal cues of others don’t need to be verbalized but make a mental note. These can help you discern what to say when it’s your turn to speak. Your observations can also serve as performance indicators during the interview.
Zip the Lip
It’s tough to listen to employers at a networking event, on the phone during a pre-screen, or during the actual job interview if you’re doing all the talking. The best rule of thumb if you want to improve mindful listening skills is to zip the lip. Stop talking so much. Listen more than you talk.
If you listen more than you talk, the interviewer will perceive you as confident but not cocky, less selfish and more humble, and interested in the opinions of others. In sum, the employer will be much less likely to feel annoyed by you!
Employers understand that mindful listening translates to better teamwork and a greater ability to sell, promote, and consult with future clients.
Another aspect of mindful listening and zipping the lip is avoiding interruptions. However, this can be so difficult to do! When the employer is talking, no matter how valuable a thought pops into your head, don’t say it. At least not yet.
Wait until the employer has finished speaking to comment or contribute.
If you have trouble remembering your thoughts unless you speak them immediately, a notepad and pen are your friends. Make notes of your thoughts—just enough detail to jog your memory when it’s your turn to speak and ask questions.
Reflect & Ask Questions
While the other person is speaking, pay attention to the words being said as well as the speaker’s mannerisms, facial expressions, voice tone, and other nonverbal cues. This will help you gain insight and clarity into what the speaker is really trying to convey.
Reflect on the content of the message you are hearing. Jot down quick insights or questions you want to ask for clarification or points you want to make to follow up on what’s being said.
You can typically ask questions in two ways: by mirroring or by paraphrasing.
When we mirror, we repeat key points to demonstrate that we were listening. When we paraphrase, we summarize the message in our own words. Either way, before you start chiming in with your own thoughts or questions, be sure you mirror or paraphrase FIRST.
This can help confirm you actually absorbed the message accurately. If you paraphrase what the interviewer said, and it doesn’t match the employer’s intention, he can clarify. Paraphrasing or mirroring can offer the employer a chance to clear up any miscommunication. And this demonstrates that you care about hearing and perceiving others’ thoughts accurately.
Checking Your Mindful Listening Skills
Now that you know why mindful listening skills matter so much to employers, you can practice and improve your own. If you don’t have a job interview scheduled right now, great! This gives you more time to assess your skill level and then practice and improve before it determines your job search success.
Don’t hesitate to ask people who know you well what they think of your listening skills. If more than one person observes that you interrupt often, you probably do. Accept constructive criticism and let it drive you to improve.
A great way to practice mindful listening is by joining a group that hosts regular meetings. Serve on a committee with a nonprofit organization, attend Toastmasters meetings, or gather with fellow bibliophiles for a book club. You’ll have a chance to try all the tips in this article in something other than the interview setting.
No matter how you do it, be sure you practice. Mastering mindful listening skills can ensure success during your job interview, and greater still, your career journey.
For more communication tips, check out Lensa Insights.