Mind full or Mindful ?— How Mindful Listening Improves Productivity in Tech

Mindful what now? Mindfulness is a word that has been heavily featured in popular media of late, most notably for its ability to help manage the downfalls of stress. And it’s no wonder mindfulness is popular: the busyness and stress of day-to-day life appears to be taking quite a toll on us. According to sociologists who measure anxiety levels in countries all over the world, the United States, our closest cousin, is leading the pack. They predict 1 in 3 U.S. adults will struggle with anxiety at least once in their lifetime. A brief look to statistics in this area will show that people of all ages are falling victim to the effects of stress, anxiety and burnout. If one were to keep digging, they would find an increasing body of research showing the efficacy of mindfulness to augment the effects of stress, and further, to train attention, focus, and emotion such that performance and overall life satisfaction is enhanced.

Simply put, mindfulness refers to present moment awareness with an open and non-judgmental attitude. Applications of mindfulness to combat workplace stress help improve high standards of performance, help employees deal with the reality of workplace demands, and help to connect employers to their employees and work in more skillful and compassionate ways. One approach is to apply mindfulness to a number of different key functional interactions within your organization. Think focus, conflict resolution, decision making, communication, dealing with stress, and even listening to name a few.

When applied to listening the benefits can be astounding: think shorter meetings, more connection and synergy between colleagues and a deeper understanding of different viewpoints. All of which can lead to enhanced productivity, effectiveness, and collaboration. Indeed, several studies on sales performance show that salespeople that demonstrate high levels of listening behavior are rated as more trustworthy (Ramzi & Sohi, 1997) and that listening skills are related to empathy and client satisfaction, which increases the likelihood of future interactions (Aggarwal et al., 2005).

But as simple as mindful listening seems, it isn’t necessarily something we’re conditioned to do. With so many competing priorities demanding our attention, we can easily slide into patterns of distraction. Thankfully there are steps you can take to train your mindful listening muscle. We’ve outlined a couple of the most common areas to be mindful of:

REHEARSING

What is it?

“Looking” interested while you are busy rehearsing your responses to their words. You have a point to make, a story to tell, or an objection to raise. You spend your time ready to rebut, defend or maneuver your ideas into the spotlight.

Why is this bad/ineffective?

When we are busy preparing our response — or simply waiting for our turn to speak to inject our own opinion — we cannot truly hear what the other person is saying. Their message cannot permeate through because we have, in fact, stopped listening to the message and instead are just listening for a break in the conversation so we can speak.

What happens when you become mindful of this?

Noticing this tendency gives us the option to stop this pattern. To listen. You are able to suspend your own agenda long enough to fully hear the message of another.

What should you say/do to reduce the effectiveness of this thought?

We may find ourselves rehearsing for many reasons. For instance, you may be nervous and so prepare your responses so that you don’t feel dim-witted when the next gap of silence rears its ugly head. Or, you may be arguing and attempting to get your point across with no great interest in what your opponent is saying. Regardless of the context, the first step is to become aware of yourself. Noticing your thoughts, feelings and behaviours in any conversation you are having is paramount to effective listening.

DREAMING

What is it?

‘I just got back from San Francisco and…’

Their words trigger your own private thoughts and associations and your mind wanders. You are thinking about something their words remind you of, and when you ‘return’ they are talking about something else.

Why is this bad/ineffective?

Our attention spans are becoming increasingly short and it’s no surprise that our minds wander during a conversation. But, when we are busy daydreaming about our own fabulous memories or all the tasks we need to do before the work day ends, we are not listening. The most critical aspect of listening deeply is the ability to suspend one’s sense of self so that they can be present for the message of another.

What happens when you become mindful of this?

When we begin to notice that the mind has drifted off (again), the next step is to be able to bring the mind back to the present conversation. Once you are giving your full attention to the speaker, you create an opportunity to share in their experience, which builds connection.

What should you say/do to reduce the effectiveness of this thought?

The next time someone tells you about their vacation, notice whether your immediate response is to share a story about your own vacation. Instead of relating to the speaker from an example of your own world, respond in a way that allows you to explore more about their experience.

There are many ways to cultivate mindfulness, listening deeply is just one of them. It is so often overlooked, but is one of the core essential skills that any high performing employee must master.

Myplanet and Mindful Gateway Consulting have created a series of 10 step-by-step Mindfulness-Based Functional Workshops, all of which are backed by research. These one-hour training sessions apply the philosophical foundations of mindfulness and psychology to the functional skills required to be effective at work. Sample topics include Conflict Resolution, Decision Making, and Systems Change. They’re 1-hour in length and integrate didactic and experiential components so that attendees not only learn the latest research supporting these topics, but are also able to deeply experience the practices and techniques firsthand. This enables them to take what they’ve learned and apply it back to their own work in a manner that complements their individual work style and the nature of the task before them.

If you’d like to learn more on the benefits of mindfulness listening in the workplace, join us on December 1st from 6:00pm-8:00pm at Myplanet for our Mindfulness in Tech Meetup: Focus Workshop & Networking Session.

References:

Aggarwal, P., Castleberry, S. B., Ridnour, R., & Shepherd, C. D. (2005). Salesperson empathy and listening: Impact on relationship outcomes. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 16–31.

Ramsey, R. P., & Sohi, R. S. (1997). Listening to your customers: The impact of perceived salesperson listening behavior on relationship outcomes. Journal of the Academy of marketing Science, 25(2), 127–137.

Written by

The Myplanet Team

The Myplanet Team

Sign up for our newsletter