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The Skill of Listening

Updated: Jan 29, 2020

In a recent post, I wrote about our five senses. Talking about how we rarely just simply observe what we touch, smell, taste, see or hear. Rather that we make an instant judgment if we like or dislike it.

Today, I am focusing on what and how we listen can affect our experience with our significant other, co-workers, supervisors, children, surroundings like nature or traffic, including ourselves. What I came to realize is that it takes a lot of practice to listen. It takes a lot of patience to carefully pay attention and possibly hear what is happening underneath the surface.

During one of my "Experience at the Mindfulness in America Summit," sessions we did a listening exercise. We were a group of 5-6 people and one person was telling a story and the other 4-5 people were asked to just listen. For some, it was difficult to just listen without commenting, agreeing, or asking questions. Although, we knew we later had a chance to ask questions or talk about whatever one person was talking about.

I did the same practice with a group last week, 1-on-1, with a similar outcome. By just listening it was hard not to immediately exchange information as it would help with making a connection.

Observing the participants in both settings taught me that it is a very uncomfortable experience, for the one talking as well as for the one listening, if we can't connect with each other, which words, acknowledgment, and questions would do.

When we increase our listening skills of just hearing what the other person is saying, without bringing in our thoughts and conclusions, we might be able to learn new insights into what is being said that we don't know when we interfere. Our minds are so easily distracted that a new thought or a new direction of conversation could lead us to miss the purpose of this conversation. By letting them verbalizing their thoughts and having someone listening to them might give us the answer we were looking for. As our perception and understanding differ from each other.

The interesting part is that the lack of listening to others seems mainly because we want to be heard. We all have thoughts that come up when we hear other people talking, which is why we comment or question during a conversation. Additionally, I am sure it doesn't help that whatever we do, we believe not to have enough time to listen.

Next time we are in a conversation with someone, let's focus on just listening to what they have to say. It will feel awkward and we will notice how little we usually listen to anybody or anything. This practice might open our ears to new sounds like in nature, birds who are flying to the south, squirrels playing with each other under a pile of leaves, or a river in the distance. What do you hear in your surroundings now?

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