Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Art of Listening

I saw this picture posted today and it reminded me of one of the lessons from the seminar that I attended last fall.

Listening is truly an art, but it is a skill, in my opinion, that has been terribly lost in todays society. The Chinese symbol for "listen" is made up of many other words, because to truly listen requires more than just hearing! Coincidentally, I 'listened' to a teleseminar tonight on this subject, and wanted to get all these thought out of my head and down in print.

Now, I am the first to admit that this is an area that is still a work in progress.  Like anything I have ever mentioned here, it takes practice to get good at it, but the awareness of what we are doing is a BIG step!

Essentially there are 3 ways to listen, the first 2 are the ways the majority of us do it, and they do NOT work! We usually agree or disagree with whatever is being said, and in doing that we are validating our need to either be right or to not be wrong.  When you listen in that way, no new information ever comes in.  There is no room for new facts, therefore you stay the same.

The 3rd way involves just BEING with the person that is talking.  Allow yourself to be OPEN to what is being said, suspend judgements, just BE with the information and pay attention to your reactions to it. What comes to mind, how do you feel about the info? Allow yourself to accept the new information.  Let yourself go Hmmmmmmmm.

If you find yourself blaming or making the info wrong while you are 'listening' to it, then what happens is you're judging the info and you are actually no longer listening!  You are disconnecting and closing yourself off.  At this point you need to ask yourself, what is it about what's being said that is causing you to do this? Usually, it's those needs of being right or not being wrong.

One of the most basic human needs is to understand and be understood. To accomplish this, we REALLY need to be truly listening not only to whom ever we are with, but to ourselves as well!

So how do we know if the person we are talking to is actually listening? It's all in the body language! If they are listening in one of the first 2 ways, you can tell that their minds are somewhere else, they lean or move away, walking around. There is very little verbal recognition with no emotional connection.  You get the 'yup, uh huh's'.  If they are listening in the 3rd way and are truly in the moment with you, you will have strong eye contact, they will lean in closer to you, you will see emotional reactions in their faces and in their responses.

There are going to be times when you are talking with someone, that they are going to say something that you strongly disagree with or makes you angry. This is where the practice part REALLY comes in handy! If you are disagreeing strongly, you just have to keep reminding yourself that there is no need to change their opinion, they are entitled to it, and you're not always going to agree.  Just hear their viewpoint and try to see where they are coming from, but just agree to disagree.

The ones that make you angry or are very abrasive with their opinions are actually easier to handle.  Instead of letting them get under your skin, just surrender yourself to let them be right (even though you don't really think that way). These types of people are fueled by your reaction and what to engage you in a heated argument, but when you just say 'you're right' and walk away, that completely takes the wind out of their sails and actually mildly annoys them! lol.........this would be considered 'taking the high road'!

I think one of the hardest parts of listening is to NOT interrupt the person that is talking.  Do not jump in with your thoughts on the situation or your opinions of what they should have done.  Let the person finish what they have to say, and then respond. When you feel the need to interrupt, stop yourself and ask yourself what is the need for your interruptions? Do you need clarification, more info or is your need to be heard more important than listening to the other person? Just BE WITH that person, put your needs aside!

Listening is significant in our needs in understanding and being understood.  In society, with all the distractions that we have with our iPods, Smart phones and numerous other electronic devices, we don't allow ourselves to BE with the people that we are with or even with ourselves.  More of us (and this is what I am really working on right now) need to start making changes to get into alignment with who and what we are intended to be.

Respect yourself and those around you by actively participating in the Art of Listening!