Updated: Mar 14
Each moment in our lives presents us with the opportunity to be either the listener, the observer, or the one who needs to be heard, the observed. Sometimes in life we are both at the same time.
When we listen to others from a mindful space we will notice four automatic and programmed responses pop up.
Advising - Advising is when we attempt to fix the problem when we haven’t been asked to do so.
Evaluating - When we are listening from a place of evaluation we are subconsciously or consciously judging and making comparisons.
Probing - Listening while probing, aka asking “20 questions” creates an environment where we begin to create a story that suits our own personal agenda versus truly listening.
Interpreting - Let’s also call this jumping to conclusions. When we listen from a place of interpretation we feel like we know “what’s really going on” as we play “psychologist” while someone shares their problem.
Empathetic Response - Practicing an empathic response while listening allows us to transcend our own story and see beyond judgment, comparisons, and conclusions. It shifts us from an automatic response and puts us into a space that requires practice and builds connection. It makes empathy tangible to the observed. It shows to the observed that we intellectually understand what they are sharing and the emotions conveyed with the content.
Let’s revisit empathy.
What is empathy?
“Empathy is connecting with people so we know we're not alone when we're in struggle. Empathy is a way to connect to the emotion another person is experiencing; it doesn't require that we have experienced the same situation they are going through.” - Brené Brown
Empathic listening is a skill that must be practiced.
Empathy is listening with the absence of judgment.
The easiest way to practice empathy is by beginning a mindfulness practice. As you develop your mindfulness practice you will experience opportunities to sit with uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. You will experience opportunities of self judgment, self criticism, and shame. You’ll also experience opportunities where grace, compassion, and forgiveness can be offered to yourself or to a situation your mind wanders to.
It is in these moments where we are more receptive to the deepest levels of loving kindness.
As a woman of Christian faith, it is in quiet moments alone when practicing mindful meditations where I have had the most profound experiences of clarity, compassion, love, and grace; experiences I know can come only from Christ Jesus who came to model this greatest love. His life is the greatest example empathy and loving kindness.
When mindfulness is incorporated into our daily practices, we can learn it is only by God’s great love and grace that we can hold a space for others that is free of judgment and shame. In those moments where we fail, we know we can return to those quiet moments of mindfulness within ourselves by way of breath focused meditation with God, that we can be refilled with loving kindness so we can begin again.
Let us keep practicing.
Again, and again, and again.
Reflections & Opportunities for Growth