Listening is somewhat an art form, and as in music or dance, you only become proficient with practice. There are countless meanings assigned to the act of listening. You can listen with your heart, you can listen to your intuition, you can listen to mantras of religion or stories you’ve been told since childhood. What I am referring to is how we listen to ourselves and others, which all of the above influence. Without sincere listening, communication breaks down, misunderstandings flare, and a sense of dread and loneliness can cause you to feel frustrated or anxious.
To lessen the problems non-listening creates, here a few ways to develop and enhance your ability to listen. When genuinely listening to another person, find the takeaway. In other words, look to understand what that person is trying to say. Avoid reading into or interpreting, tease away your own biases. If what they’re saying is ambiguous, murky, or makes no sense to you, ask for clarification, or mirror to them what you feel their message is.
When you are actively listening, you will more than likely have questions, hold them until the person is finished. Often many of us are too eager to spew out our response, or wisdom, or opinion that we forget to hear what the other person is saying entirely. If you find yourself preoccupied with focusing and crafting what you think, you are not listening. If you realize your reply has nothing to do with what the other person is said, you were not paying attention.
Naturally, it’s easier to listen to people you share common ground with, and it’s difficult and challenging to listen to those you don’t. Let’s put this in the realm of relationships. Your partner may have been raised with strict rules, and there was little wiggle room for self-exploration. You, on the other hand, had a family that encouraged independent thinking. You fall in love, but after the honeymoon phase, you find you are arguing over just about everything. More than likely, it’s a lack of listening to each other – listening without hearing. Whew, that is a tough one.
However, when you begin to practice real listening, you cannot only muddle through tough conversations, you may actually start to see resolutions. When you let down the defenses and realize it isn’t about you, but about the other, you’ll learn to listen with love, empathy, and a deeper understanding that leads to connection.
Spiritual leader Ram Dass has a plethora of quotes that remind us that listening requires going beyond our ego. “We are fascinated by the words, but where we meet is in the silence behind them.” It is in the quiet recess of your consciousness that the truth or impact of words reverberates. Words themselves are simply nouns, verbs, adverbs, tools with which to communicate. Yet somehow, they can cut us deeply or be profoundly motivating. When you think about how people without hearing communicate, it’s interesting because they still use language, just not necessarily words.
A huge part of learning to listen to others is listening to yourself. If you fill your mind and energy with some diversion 24/7, you cannot hear your inner thoughts or desires or spiritual guidance. Think about a time that a teacher, a friend, a mentor said something that resonated with you so profoundly it changed your life forever. It was that time you spent meditating or pondering the words or intentions of the person that convinced you there were truth and significance to them.
Learning active listening will change the way you communicate forever, and it will enhance your relationships and confidence. In my next newsletter, I will expound on different listening techniques and how to listen and trust yourself. Stay tuned!