“Tell me who you are.” I said to a multi-faith Monk who observed silence for several decades, and only resumed talking this year. In that moment, she revealed herself to me as The Supreme Listener. This experience inspired my current contemplation: What is Listening?
Listening brings connection to our world, compassion to our hearts and meaning to our existence. It's in the listening that people become more alive, clear, and beautiful. Listening can be an unburdening, a forgiveness, a witnessing, and/or a devotional service. Listening nurtures the soul, encouraging it to grow and blossom like the unfurling of a flower.
* How well do I listen?
* Am I able to be present for my friends, family, lovers, teachers, children, acquaintances, and especially myself?
* Or are am I mind reading?
* Rehearsing what I’m going to say?
* Filtering out what I don’t want to hear? * How often do I change the subject?
* Do I daydream?
* Give advice?
* Look for ways of being right?
* Do I let the words go over my head
*or just land on the floor?
To Be a Better Listener
Listening is more than just shutting your mouth when another person is speaking. It’s far more rewarding than that. Listening is a tremendous gift to any fellow being. Humans yearn to be understood. These are basic human desires. Spontaneous psychological and spiritual growth results from simply being listened to. This is why therapists and coaches are becoming such sought-after professionals.
Following are some basic tips to help you experience more connection. If you find these practices difficult, you may need to get you're own needs met first. Consider hiring a coach or a therapist to model great listening and teach you the gift of how to give it back. True listening requires that you relax and set your own reactivity aside. Many people have not been listened to, especially throughout childhood, so naturally, their suppressed desire to be heard gets in the way of their ability to listen.
1. Pay attention. Focus on the content. Ask yourself while listening. What feelings, beliefs, thoughts, ideas, desires and concepts are being expressed?
2. Don’t interrupt. Inhibit your impulse to immediately interrupt, or jump in during a pause. Resist assuming you know what someone is about to say. (Even if you’re very psychic, it’s better to let someone come to their own conclusions than to tell them what they feel.)
3. Open your Mind. Listen as objectively as possible. You can be accepting and respectful whether or not you agree with what’s being said. Let go of your own agenda and avoid emotional involvement. Don’t judge. Deciding something is right or wrong only prevents you from really hearing, and robs your partner from being understood.
4. Body Language. Experts estimate at least 55% of the message is delivered with non-verbal signs. Eye contact is important. Face your partner and lean in so they know you’re intent on what they’re saying. Use head nodding and “ah” sounds only when it’s natural. Be careful not to cross your arms across your chest, this gives the message that you are not open to receive what’s being shared. Resist looking at your watch, or around the room while someone is sharing. A relaxed body is the best receiver.
5. Ask for clarification. If you are confused and know you do not understand, don’t pretend you do. Either ask your partner to say it another way, or use your best guess, feeding it back to them. If you are incorrect, the person will realize it and will naturally want to correct your misunderstanding.
6. Feedback what you’ve heard: To insure accurate understand repeat back what you think you heard the person say, either with exact words, or by paraphrasing. Try saying something like, “So, I hear you saying…” or “What I’m hearing is…” This process not only diffuses the most difficult situations, but fosters a profound feeling of compassion.
7. Show gratitude. Speaking can be vulnerable. Be sure to thank you’re partner for what they’ve shared. And thank them for just being themselves.
8. Practice. Practice. Practice. Even if you were born with the natural ability to listen, I invite you to take every possible opportunity to offer yourself to your fellow human beings and really hear what is being said. It’s with the intention of true connection that the joy of life unfolds. Listen to learn more about yourself. Listen as an act of loving. Listen for the sheer joy of listening.
Without the listening, there would be no music; no poetry, and no prayer.
Enjoy the dance,