How to be a mindful listener

Woman looking at man and smiling

You can tell when someone is really listening to you. You can see it in the way they lean in or react to something you’ve said. You can hear it in their questions or what they say next. You know you’ve been heard, and it feels good.

You can also tell when someone isn’t listening to you — and that doesn’t feel good. Unfortunately, a “good listener” is hard to find these days. While you can’t change the way someone else listens, you can improve your own listening skills. And that may inspire others to do the same.

Good listening requires intention and attention. The intention part means actually being interested in the other person — their experiences, views, feelings, and needs. The attention part means being able to keep your focus on them, and remaining open to what they say — even if they don’t agree with your ideas.

Here are a few ways to start listening better.

  1. Check inside
    As someone is talking, ask yourself, “Is anything getting in the way of my really listening to this person?” Maybe you’re thinking about something going on in your life. Maybe you have an issue with the person, so you’re looking at their body language. If there’s something there, name it. Then decide if you need to deal with it right away, or if it can wait.

  2. Extend yourself
    Choose to listen fully and with interest and kindness. Then, practice.

  3. Notice your responses
    Silently note any thoughts, feelings, judgments, or memories that come up. Just note them — don’t try to figure out what they mean or judge yourself for having them. Then bring your attention back to what the other person is saying.

  4. Listen actively
    Show you’re listening by confirming what you’ve heard, using the other person’s words if you can. This helps the person to feel heard and understood.

  5. Ask and affirm
    Use friendly questions if you don’t understand something that was said. Finally, acknowledge the other person’s point of view before introducing your own.



This copyrighted information is courtesy of and mindful listening trainer David Rome.


Reviewed by Kaiser Permanente Clinical Ambassadors, including Mark Dreskin, MD, Sharon Smith, LPC, and/or David Kane, LCSW. September 2018.

Mindful, healthy mind, healthy life

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.

Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage, Summary Plan Description or other coverage documents. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.