“Maybe there’s a reason God gave us two ears, and one mouth.”
I think of listening as first desire and then as an ability to turn off our internal dialogue so we are present and focused on what the other person is trying to communicate. Not always a simple task.
In the age of social media facebook and twitter “shouting contests,” truly listening to someone can be a tremendous a gift, to both the speaker and listener.
Yoga, meditation, journaling, and exercise are all examples of helpful tools in training our minds to settle down so we are able to turn off our internal dialogue, stay present, and truly listen to the other person.
I love Nhat Hanh’s definition of deep listening because it takes listening to a whole new level and builds deep trust between two individuals:
“Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart. Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, you give the person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don’t interrupt. You don’t argue. If you do, he loses his chance. You just listen with compassion and help him suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing.”
– Nhat Hanh
I find the following exercise an interesting and enriching experience to practice with others, especially children.
Take the listener’s challenge: for the next week, make a concerted effort to listen to the person in front of you for five minutes without interrupting them. What do you notice? What, if anything surprised you? How were you able to let the other person know you were listening without actually speaking to them? What did you learn? I would love to hear about your “listening experience,” feel free to shoot me an email with your experience at firstname.lastname@example.org.