We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say. ~Zeno of Citium
Do you remember that time in your life where you didn’t feel listened to? We’ve all been in those relationships—whether at work or at home—where we felt invisible. Not being listened to is the same as being ignored.
Listening goes beyond simply hearing someone. Hearing does not require comprehension or action. Listening takes practice, just like any other skill. It requires that we apply ourselves repeatedly and over time in order to become more effective.
Benefits of Listening
- Connects us to others, deepens relationship, builds friendships
- Builds energy
- Easier collaboration
- Grows trust
- Inspires us and stokes creativity
- Promotes peace and stillness
- Raises efficiency
- Promotes fun and good times
- Helps us feel safe
- Slows us down
- Demonstrates the value of other humans
Listening is both a human need we have as well as a gift we give one another. Why do we engage so easily with good listeners? Here are five key ways to develop the Skill of Listening.
1. Be present.
Learn to focus your distracted energy in order to strengthen present moment awareness. Take a few deep breaths. Remind yourself to tune in to the present moment without predicting or anticipating what comes next.
Do not interrupt. Learn how to still your body so you’re not constantly fidgeting. Treat this as a meditation to help lessen the constant chatter in your mind. It’s like tuning a radio dial to only one station.
2. Be curious.
Remain open to what the speaker is saying instead of projecting what you want them to say. Allow the words they speak to land and digest them in your mind with wonder. Be interested and they will become more interesting. Treat them as you would anything towards which you are curious.
3. Be open.
Ask yourself, what can you learn from this person? What are they saying that inspires you? Allow the collaboration to be co-creative, knowing that you’ve never been in that moment before. Stay open-hearted without judgment.
Too often, what prevents us from honing this skill is our own habit of resistance. This can take the form of worry, frustration, or agitation. This shuts us down to what is being said before it even occurs (Like when we finish the other person’s sentences, or can’t even wait for them to complete their thought).
Watch your body language. Unwrap your arms if they are tightly wound in front of your body. Relax your shoulders, soften your gaze, and lean in toward the speaker.
4. Pay attention.
Be so enveloped in the conversation that you can ask follow up questions for clarification or deepening of understanding. Repeat back anything they say where you need to know you listened to the best of your ability.
Also be aware of your surroundings: Are there noises in the background? Is the lighting easy or difficult? In spite of any chaos, pay attention to them. Make good eye contact. Watch their body movements, the expression of their face, and the story of their eyes.
If you pay attention, then you will see more than what they are saying.
5. Accept the critical.
An important part of listening is to stay with someone even when they have something difficult to say. Learning how to argue wisely and with heart is a skill. The time we need to listen the most is when we don’t want to.
Learn how to be comfortable with your discomfort. Do not run from challenging conversations, but rather listen and learn. Remain easy and balanced in your breath.
Above all, be kind and demonstrate acceptance (This does not pertain to gossip, or to issues which you are neither a part of the problem or the solution—in those cases, it is best to redirect the conversation and not engage).
Listening well keeps us engaged and vibrant in our community. After all, what we share with one another is important. And the more we model skilled listening, the higher the chance that others will receive us with present attention, acceptance, and kindness.
Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable. ~David Augsburger