It's really not that hard. Here are seven habits of mindful listeners
Has this ever happened to you? You're in a conversation with a friend, and you're telling someone about your crappy day or your ridiculous coworker. Or maybe you're telling them that you ate a slice of mediocre cheesecake this afternoon and boom, you're thrown off your superficial rant.
Why? Because suddenly you're having visions of your mother's famous cheesecake that she made every year for a spring party. You miss that cheesecake. You miss your mother. You just got hit with a wall of emotion, and now you're kind of teary eyed but also a little embarrassed and somewhat anxious that you might be judged for bringing that up again.
And what's your friend supposed to do at this moment? Tell you she's sorry? Heck no! It's been eight years and you're still choking up about cheesecake. What good will her telling you sorry do for you today?
What helps the most is just being a great listener. All you need in this moment is to be heard, to be understood, and to be able to experience whatever feelings you are experiencing without piling on others like shame, discomfort or awkwardness.
In times of high emotion, this little act of just listening has big, transformative powers. Simply put, a great listener doesn't have to say much to make you feel better. In fact, a great listener barely says anything at all. If they did, they wouldn't be listening. So how do people actually become great listeners? The good news is, it's easy to do at any age.
There are several ways a person can work on their listening skills. Active Listening, a subset of high-level interpersonal communications skills, is particularly well known for its transformative powers. When a person engages in Active Listening, he or she is focused almost exclusively on the other person.
The following elements are key when practicing Active Listening:
Overall, a great listener makes the other person feel like they are the only one in the world; a feeling that's rare in these days of continual sensory overload. A great listener helps the other person get to the core of what's bothering them at that moment, so they can verbalize it and start to move forward. A great listener knows that when you're on another one of your cheesecake tangents, the best thing to do is support you as you re-experience your deep loss fully and completely in that moment, cherry topping and all.
A version of this piece originally ran on modernloss.com.