I think we’ve all be there. Perhaps it happens several times a day. That moment when you’re simultaneously in conversation with your kiddo — and the three thousand other voices in your head. 

Did you put the permission slip in her backpack? I wonder how he did on the spelling test. What was it that Grandma needed me to drop by? Chicken or pasta for dinner? Ugh, I wish I had remembered to text her that this morning. Don’t forget to send that email to the client. Don’t forget to send that email to the client. If you pick her up at four, there’s probably enough time to squeeze in a playground run before gymnastics. Just be sure to grab the juice boxes and granola bars on your way out the door.

… then the little person talking to you about their day says,

“So, Mom, can I go?”

Go where?!?!? What was she talking about?

Sometimes we are so lost in our own day-to-day tasks that we forget to really listen. To be present in the moment and to truly hear what our kids — or our clients, or our parents, or our friends — are really saying. That’s where mindful listening can help.

“Mindfulness is our capacity to simply and fully focus on the things, the people, and the tasks that are directly in front of us,” writes Dr. Kristen Race, author of Mindful Parenting.

The core rationale for mindful listening: much like the noise inside your mind, external noises often go unnoticed. When we pay attention to those noises, we become more engaged and more purposeful in our communication. Learning to focus intently on a speaker improves relationships, increases attention span, and helps develop negotiating skills. {Full disclosure, those negotiating skills may or may not work with toddlers…}

Don’t get me wrong. Mindful listening thing is hard at first. Especially with constant distractions in our life. How many likes did you last Instagram picture get? The toddler isn’t really in the sink again, is she? When was the last time the baby ate? Oh, text about homework. And an email from a client who needs something yesterday.

… and back to the task at hand.

How do we get there? To the point where we are feeling a little less cluttered when it comes to listening. 

Dr. Race suggests starting with just five minutes. Take five minutes of your day and really listen to the world around you. Go for a walk. And listen. When your mind starts to wander to your to-do list — and it will. Just remind yourself to listen and bring your mind back.

Ultimately, mindful listening helps cultivate compassion and empathy; something the world could use a little more of and something I certainly try to instill in my kids. Dr. Race suggests practicing detective listening in Mindful Parentingand I love the idea of extending this to kids and asking them to become listening detectives. Here’s what she writes:

Listen carefully to people when they speak, almost as if you were a detective looking for clues. Try to absorb their every word. See if you can refrain from letting your thoughts wander to what you want to say and just listen. Notice not only their speech, but also their facial expressions and body language. How does this type of listening change as your interaction with this person?

When we stop to listen to our kids, our significant others, our friends, our colleagues — and pay attention to their speech, expressions, and body language — we are really hearing them. And really hearing someone is a powerful thing. 

(cool) mindful moms week two: mindful listening

For the next week, take 5-10 minutes per day and listen.  If your mind wanders — and it will — simply bring it back with a gentle reminder to listen.  It’s a small change. Let’s give it a week and see what happens! Don’t forget to join the Facebook group and participate in the discussion — or leave a comment below!