We have two ears to hear but do we listen?
Most people are so busy trying to talk and tell the world how things are for them they never take the time to listen. You cannot learn anything new without listening; you will forever be trapped in your own reality. Remember your reality is created by your perceptions. Only by adding a new perspective can you open your mind to the possibility of something different. So listening is just about the most important skill you have. Notice I used the word ‘skill’. It is something we need to practise in order to truly connect with others and the world around us.
The biggest communication problem is that we do not listen to understand; we listen to reply
Just because you are in the same space as someone when they are talking does not mean you are listening to what they are saying. Active listening involves your ears to hear, your eyes to see and your heart to understand. In truth 90% of communication is unspoken so if you are only using your ears, you are missing almost all of what is being said behind the words.
I know plenty of people who don’t know how to listen. If you ask them what you’ve just said, they can repeat your words back to you – a small part of their brain is noticing that you are speaking and able to process the words – however, every other sense is engaged on the inward conversation they are having with themselves. They believe they are having a conversation with you but in truth they are using your words simply as a tool to tell you even more about themselves. In some cases, they are so oblivious to your presence you may not speak a word in 30 minutes or more and by the time you get a chance to speak, they are too busy to listen and must rush.
In their minds they just spent a lovely time in deep, meaningful conversation with you. They go away feeling refreshed and invigorated. Your experience is very different. You blow out the breath you have been holding, roll your eyes and thank the universe they have left. Listening to them has exhausted you. In actual fact they have sapped your energy leaving you drained and tired. Being with them does not add to your life.
If you have experienced this then you will know exactly what I mean. The question to ask yourself is;
“Am I truly listening to others or am I just formulating my next response?”
Here’s some ways to improve your listening skills and to truly hear those around you.
Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Can you hear the birds singing, the sound of the car passing, the laughter of children playing, the rustle of the breeze in the trees? Focus on each sound and absorb it fully. As your mind wanders, give it a new sound to focus on. Practise this as often as you can. Wherever there are sounds to be heard – in the supermarket, in the car, at the school, in a business meeting, at the gym. Places that are inherently noisy are a great way to practise your skills. When there are sounds all around you, it can be very hard to listen.
Process The Sounds
Beyond the listening is the skill of processing the sounds. What would it be like to be the little bird in the nest that tweets for its mother? Or the mother who flies backwards and forwards all day long in search of food for her baby? The rustle of the leaves on the trees let us follow the movement of the air, the wind. Listen to its ebbs and flows for a few minutes. As the car passes your window on its way down the street, ask yourself where it might be going. Who is behind the wheel and what is their story? As you hear the children’s voices in the schoolyard, see if you can identify the game they are playing.
Listening In Action
Meet a friend for coffee and ask her about herself. Ask her for her opinion on something you know she is passionate about. Sit back and truly listen. Listen to the words; listen to her tone of voice. What did you learn about your friend that you never knew before?
Ask your child about their day and take the time to listen to the answer – all of the answer. In behind the words, which seem to spew forth in a constant stream, is their feeling about their day; the perceptions they have created about the way things are supposed to be. What are they not telling you? Have you failed to listen so many times they only tell you the exciting stuff to keep your interest? How are they really coping with school and life amongst their peers? If you do not listen fully, you may miss the quiet plea for help your child may expect you to hear. They may not have the words to tell you what life is like for them as they look to you for guidance.
Empathy In Motion
Empathy is the skill of listening with every part of you – taking every bit of information from all your sensors and really hearing what someone is saying (or not saying). Can you hear the pain behind the words? The passion, the enthusiasm, fear, bravado and joy? Can you hear the response they need from you?
Have you ever experienced a time when you have turned to a friend in your hour of need to find they are so self-absorbed they do not notice? That later when they find out through the grapevine that your father has just died, or you have been diagnosed with cancer, won a prestigious award, or been invited to present an important speech, they phone and ask why you didn’t say anything.
This is an example of the worst kind of communication but unfortunately its one many of us frequently engage in. No wonder they feel as isolated and alone as we do. Each of us is so engrossed in surviving our own dramas we cannot truly listen.
Use Your Intuition
Have you ever experienced what we could call a hunch? A little nagging feeling that you should be doing something? Have you ever been thinking about a friend and when the phone rings, it’s them? Ever had someone you haven’t seen for many years on your mind and then out of the blue you run into them in the street?
People call these coincidences but I believe this is your intuition speaking, that quiet little voice that can guide you safely through life if you only take the time to listen.
Take Time To Be In Silence
Even in the silence there is something to hear if you listen closely. The constant beating of your heart and the sound of your breathing is with you always. If you can hear these quiet, regular sounds that give you life, you will start to hear the world around you with a new intensity. The quieter your mind, the more you can hear.
Listen With Your Heart
Listening, as we have seen, is about so much more than using your ears. If you can learn to listen to the sounds in the silence, you will become more aware of the subtle changes in energy around you. As you do so, you will be listening with your heart. As you begin to tap into the essence within, you will find you have an abundance to share with those who walk alongside you. The world will look much clearer and you will feel connected to everything and everyone around you and you will finally listen to understand.