How to Be a Great Listener
Brag Alert! I'm a good listener. I've had lots of practice. I paid thousands of dollars and spent many hours training myself in programs that practiced real listening. If there is anything I appreciate, it's people who listen.
Do you want to know some secret strategies for listening that can leave people touched or moved by your presence?
For the basement bargain price of free, I'll share some of what I've learned here with you today.
A good friend who lends an ear is soothing salve for the soul.
Consider that what we most want in life is to be gotten.
For that experience to occur, we must be listened to. Not heard, but harkened, which means to give respectful attention. Begin to be the space within which your loved ones hear the echo of their soul and you will find that your cup doth runneth over.
Sometimes, just the grace of a good sounding board, found in the bubble of a solid friendship, or in the connection with our primary partner, provides a chance for reflection, clarity and deep healing. Healing is simple, really. We can heal one another in the easiest of ways, if we put our attention on showing up for our loved ones.
And I'm not talking about giving your attention and time to people who drive you nuts, go on and on about their ills, or complain to you every chance they get.
In those cases, consider that perhaps it's time to cut ties to those who really aren't your nearest and dearest and only leave you drained. If, like clutter clearing our homes, we let go of friendships that no longer serve, we free up energy to really be there for the ones we love.
Do you think you are a great listener?
I think good listening is a skill, one that must be practiced with intention, and I don't know many people who are all that good at it.
Sorry if that offends.
- Do you interrupt people?
- Do you look away constantly, allow yourself to be easily distracted, and break eye contact?
- Do you change the subject abruptly after someone has just shared with you or answered a personal question?
- Do you let your cell phone interfere during connections with friends you love?
These are just a few of the habits that many of us have, and though we can easily justify them as being a part of the world we live in, I think it's a poor excuse that keeps us from nurturing the ties that really bind.
On our deathbeds, we will not lament the money we lost, or the vacations we never had. We will reflect upon our relationships.
Our initial attachment was formed with our primary caregiver. It was just the two of us. Though we make room for third parties and others to join our circles, we humans mostly pair up in twosomes.
How well you tether to another can dramatically impact the quality of your life.
Consider that when someone you love is sharing themselves with you, they are getting naked. They reveal themselves and are thus vulnerable. No matter how small the reveal, it's a gift they give to you. Treat it as such by listening to what they say without interruption.
If the being in front of you is not worth the extra energy to check in, create sacred space and really lend an ear...then why are they there in front of you? Are you surrounding yourself with people you don't like? Are you in a habit of casual contact? Do you stay an island to yourself? Do you think they are not important enough? How well do we really know the people in our world? Do we relegate right relationship to be only for a select few, or do we practice it as a path?
"If you don't see God in all, then you can't see God at all."~ Yogi Bhajan.
Whomever is in the space of now, no doubt is an honored guest, and if you are conversing, is it not worth all the love in your heart to do your absolute best to show up?
How we are anywhere in our life is how we are everywhere.
If they are someone who truly matters to you, turn off your phone, put it away, maintain eye contact as much as possible and shut out the outside world.
Create a bubble of connection that shows others and each other that you are in sacred space.
If you have a limited amount of time, share that up front, allow your friend to know your boundaries and then relax into the container of intention you've created.
Notice if many of your interactions with your loved ones occur inside of limited amounts of time, too, as that may be a way you avoid intimacy. True intimacy looks like spending time with those we love with no agenda or next thing we have to get to.
Notice the habits you have when you listen to those you love. Do you habitually nod, say oh yes, or interrupt to say, me too? Whatever your unique way of listening to others, is it genuine, or an unconscious habit?
Listen, as much as possible, without saying anything. How spacious can you be? How much space can you allow the other person to experience in your presence? That type of interaction is healing.
When a loved one is really wrestling with something, try this: When they stop talking, say, "What else?" Not, "Anything else?" Say, "What else?"
See that it gives space to other, and this allows for completion, deep honoring, and the other person to relax in your listening and surrender to their truth.
Instead of jumping the gun, check in, and give them a chance to declare that they are complete with their share.
Have a habit of attempting to fix, change, help, or give advice after someone has bared their soul?
Though these ways of reacting often stem from a good place, they are bad habits and likely leave our loved ones feeling defensive, or forced into some premature resolution whilst they are standing naked in front of you.
Furthermore, when I've expressed myself to another and they begin to tell me what I could do to fix or change what I've shared about, I'm often left feeling heavy, sad, and unseen. The truth is, we all know lots of stuff. I probably know what how I could fix it, but that is not why I'm sharing with you.
I am sharing with you, most likely, to release the pressure cooker inside, to have a sounding board, to have a safe space to be seen and received. If you listen and don't treat me like a paradox to be solved, you send the message that you trust me, you know I am capable, and you love me. Then, we are are on equal ground.
If you counsel me, you relegate me to being beneath you. I know, I know, it may not be the intention, but try it on for size.
Do you give unsolicited advice? (Present rantings excluded, hey, you clicked me, right? ;)
Please, pay attention and notice if you offer advice without permission. This is a gross assault.
Instead, try saying back to your friend what you heard them say. Be a reflection, show you listened. In the end, we all just want to be gotten. Deep listening leaves us feeling received, known and gotten.
If a friend does reveal to you and you are interrupted, come back to it later, make it a priority, don't leave them hanging, out on a limb, stark naked for the world to see, alone.
This all may sound like a great deal of care-taking, and is that not what relating is about? Showing we care via actions and mustering the courage to show up fully? This looks like being there for those we love in times of need and doing what we can to soothe.
As we evolve, we will begin to realize, if we haven't already, that our relationships are vital. Vital, from the Latin, life, means that our relationships give us life. It is only through other than I can know myself.
We need one another.
Let's shuck the cell phones and television programs, drugs, or alcohol that interfere with relating and begin to grow the reverence in our hearts for each other via vital listening.
You do it for you, I do it for me, we set ourselves free.