Mindful Listening – Advice is not always nice.


Category: Mindfulness

Read: 2 min

Author: Daniel Zeitler

Anyone can give material things, but giving attention, loyalty, effort, and honesty is priceless.

I truly believe that mindfulness can and should be intertwined in many areas of our life, for example into speaking and listening to people. Before we speak, we should make the mindful decision to actively listen to the person talking. Often, we instinctively want to give our opinion on every topic, because we want to solve a problem, give advice, or relieve pain. However, words leave less room to really listen to what the other person is actually saying. How he or she is saying it, the gestures used, facial expression, or pronunciation.

The acronym, WAIT (= Why Am I Talking?) can serve as a good reminder. When we embody listening with our whole body, we can involve our eyes, ears, and everything we feel below our neck. It allows giving and receiving loving compassion to others. This is an important practice because it doesn’t matter if you’re listening to strangers on the street, your friends, family, or a business client. We are all humans, that want to be understood and accepted.

Other than listening, if we really want to encourage a behavior change, we need to move away from advice-giving. Especially when our advice is unsolicited. Research on observational learning (in conjunction with reactance theory) argues that people are resisting unsolicited advice or instructions, but they will follow behavior, especially when the habit seems to have a good and reinforcing outcome. So if we really want to change people’s lives for the better, we have to lead by example.