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Mindful Listening: A Guide to Better Communication and Calmer Conflict Resolution

An image of a man and woman talkingHave you ever found yourself in a situation where, when talking to someone, you realize that they are not really listening to you? That their minds are somewhere else? Or do find your mind drifting or waiting for a chance to speak when you are supposed to be listening to someone else? This is an increasingly common problem, causing everything from dangerous miscommunications to damaged relationships and chronic loneliness. But by practicing mindful listening, you can validate the other person's point of view, truly understand what they have to say, and form a deeper connection as well. Those with adrenal fatigue should make a point to practice mindful listening in order to prevent potentially stressful situations in the future.

Consider: A Listening Scenario

Sitting in an important meeting, you have people discussing the newest trend in the workplace and how to implement it in your office. Your cell phone is next to you, and as people talk you reach for it to check for urgent emails. Or you may sit and work on a report in your head.

You attempt to listen as well. But you find you are missing some points, here and there, and you are not really engaged in the discussion. You are not giving it your best. And people will notice!

When the meeting is over, you realize you don't have a clear idea of what was going on, your contribution was scattered and irrelevant, and you still don't know what to say for that next important email. Partial attention, in other words, is often as bad as no attention.

Mindful listening means giving your full attention to the topic at hand and also participating where needed. Paying attention shows your commitment to the topic at hand, and to those speaking, and allows you to formulate a well-thought-out contribution to the discussion.

What Is Mindful Listening?

Literature suggests that the average person (who does not practice mindful listening) only remembers a quarter of any conversation. And listening may be one of the most important relationship skills available to us.

The aim of mindful listening is to give your full attention to the matter at hand without judgment, and let the speaker know you have understood what they say. In essence, you need to let go of any distractions, whether physical or emotional. You need to clear your mind and put away your cell phone. You need to be in the moment while someone else talks and repeat it back to yourself, truly trying to make sense of their meaning and intention in speaking.

It's also important to stay aware of internal reactions that may interfere with your ability to absorb what the other person is saying. That doesn't mean you need to agree. Merely reflect what you think they are trying to convey, while setting aside your own opinions for another time. Once you have fully understood the other person, then they may feel more open to fully hear your perspective.

How to Practice Mindful Listening

Anyone can practice mindful listening, in any conversation, whether in a work setting or your private life. It may help improve interpersonal relationships with your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. And it is an excellent way to work through conflict.

Be in the Moment

When you are in a conversation, focus on what the other person is saying instead of your own thoughts. How do you do this?

An image of a group of people talking and smiling with coffee in their hands

  • Reduce distractions. Mute or set aside any devices. A cell phone is often a huge distraction.
  • Before responding, take a deep breath and think about what you wish to say. Don't plan your response while the other person is talking.
  • Ask open-ended questions to show your interest while giving the other person the opportunity to explain anything you do not understand.
  • Repeat what you think you heard the other person say, to the best of your ability, before sharing your perspective. This makes them feel heard and gives them the opportunity to correct any misunderstandings.
  • When you find your mind wandering, bring it back to the conversation. Repeat what they have said to yourself if necessary to stay focused.
  • Have some patience with the person speaking. Let them talk as long as they need to.

Be Aware of Your Internal Dialogue

Your internal dialogue is your physical reactions, feelings, or thoughts. Your thoughts may have very little to do with the person talking, or their ideas, and everything to do with your experiences.  These thoughts and feelings can make us judgmental of others or block new ideas or the ability to see other perspectives.

By remaining aware of these internal conversations, you can make the decision not to let them interfere with how you respond to a situation. By setting them aside and listening, for now, you may promote a healthier communication process that allows you to fully understand the other person's perspective before inserting your own. This helps you realize where you may actually have similarities and common goals with the other person, allowing you to deal with conflict more effectively.

Have Empathy

We tend to make judgments based on what we know, believe, or have experienced. Yet someone else may have a valid point of view, even if it is not our own. Other people have their own feelings, beliefs, and experiences that color their ideas, and trying to understand where they are coming from can also help to make their divergent ideas make more sense.

So, when in a situation where you do not agree with the other person, do let them understand that you acknowledge their opinion, even if you do not agree. Empathy helps you understand why the other person may have this differing opinion. This part of mindful listening allows you to accept that someone else has a different perspective and understand it.

Using empathy to reflect back what you understood the other person to say and why can play a key role in conflict resolution. It lets them correct misunderstandings and makes them feel heard, which also sometimes makes them more willing to hear your point of view. This is a critical piece of effective communication.

What Are the Benefits of Mindful Listening?

In addition to improved interaction with others, mindful listening has benefits that include improved physical and cognitive health.

  • You may find that your memory and attention span increase.
  • Before summarily speaking, you may think before answering and consider the effect your words may have on others.
  • You may find your self-esteem improves.
  • Many people notice an increased ability to accept their own emotions and reactions.
  • Your relationship with family, friends, and coworkers may improve.
  • It may improve your ability to resolve conflict situations and ability to work out a compromise.

Health Benefits of Mindfulness and Mindful Listening

Mindfulness has many benefits. It can help improve sleep, lower blood pressure, help alleviate chronic pain, improve gastric health, and reduce stress levels, amongst many others. Most importantly, mindfulness and mindful listening may help improve mental health. Much of this is due to your Neuroaffect Circuit and its role in stress management.

The Neuroaffect Circuit forms part of the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response and consists of the gut, brain, and autonomic nervous system. It makes use of neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, to communicate.

Stress, however, can disrupt this system. This happens when your cortisol levels, your stress hormone, do not return to normal once a stressor passes. The increased cortisol levels can result in an imbalance in the brain and in hormones necessary for the proper function of this particular circuit. This could result in neurotransmitter disruption and have profound consequences for your health.

What Mindfulness Does In Your Brain

An image of prefrontal cortex activityLiterature on the effect of mindfulness shows that it may have many potential benefits for your psychological and physical health. For example, it may have a beneficial impact on your brain’s amygdala and hippocampus. Your amygdala plays a role in emotional processing, while the hippocampus plays a role in memory and regulation of your amygdala.


  • You may see an increase in prefrontal cortex activity – this part of the brain is associated with maturity and impulse control.
  • A 2005 study indicated a thickening of the cortical region – this area is associated with sensory processing and the ability to pay attention. Literature also suggests mindfulness may slow down cortical thinning related to the aging process.

On a more work-related note, a study titled Contemplating Mindfulness at Work, published in the journal of management, suggests that mindfulness:

  • Can have a positive impact on your ability to function within the workplace.
  • Improve your attention span.
  • Promote better interpersonal relationships.
  • Increase empathy and compassion.

Mindful Listening Benefits for Adrenal Fatigue

On the other hand, symptoms that may occur due to a Neuroaffect Circuit disruption include anxiety, depression, neurodegeneration, lower stress tolerance, and sleep issues. These symptoms are common with adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue, the result of constant high cortisol output, can affect various areas of your health while showing many different symptoms.

Mindful listening, however, may have a modulating effect on the Neuroaffect Circuit and thus your NEM stress response. It may calm your body down and help you relax. This may help curb cortisol production and have a beneficial effect on all body systems affected by adrenal fatigue. Some of the key benefits associated with mindful listening for adrenal health include:

  • A reduction in stress levels due to lower cortisol production
  • A decrease in anxiety and depression due to stress reduction
  • Improved mood due to improved hormone levels
  • A lowering of blood pressure levels due to lower stress levels
  • An enhanced immune system because of controlled cortisol production
  • Improved sleep resulting from enhanced brain function and controlled cortisol production
  • A decrease in emotional eating due to an enhanced ability to control emotions

In Closing

Mindful listening can help you not only improve your overall health and well-being, but your interactions and relationships with your family, friends, and coworkers. It shows you have an active interest in what they have to say while showing you have tolerance for their views, and empathy for their situations. It allows you to fully participate and understand what is being discussed while opening up opportunities for conflict resolution. And it helps reduce stress and boosts emotional and cognitive health as well.

If you would like to know more about mindful listening and other ways to reduce stress, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1 (626) 571-1234 where we will privately discuss any issues you may have. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

© Copyright 2023 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Yes, mindful listening, like any mindfulness practice, may help modulate cortisol levels while benefitting brain function as well. Mindful listening may also improve your social and work-related interactions on many different levels. It is an easy exercise to employ throughout your day.

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