“Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.”
~ Margaret J. Wheatley
I have a hard time listening.
I am trying to become at it. It’s not that I don’t want to listen, it’s just that I make assumptions and take things personally.
My emotions get in the way.
Listening is the foundation of all good communication. More than just hearing the words that are spoken, listening is the way we receive, process and understand how to utilize information. Without it, we cannot follow directions, maintain good relationships or in the most extreme case, accomplish anything at all.
Recently, I worked with someone and was completely and utterly frustrated with what seemed to be a never-ending discussion. I perceived the other party as wanting to create drama, being overly nit picky and self-righteous. I felt I could not get anything done. This person was completely wasting my time.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t hear her, it’s that my mind was so stuck on getting this task accomplished that I could not listen. Her critique of my report summary had many constructive and insightful points, yet I could not see a single one of them as helpful because I was not listening.
I had already decided that this woman was wasting my time, and with that assumption, I was not ready to receive her words. I could not listen.
To listen all we have to do is observe, quietly, with an open mind and heart, nothing more. We don’t have to accept what is said, we just have to be willing to let it in.
In my case, I was not even letting her words in, and that is where communication begins to break down.
We speak what we already know, but we listen to take in new, sometimes, vital information, which we can then utilize to accomplish tasks. Not only do we learn by listening, but we acknowledge the person who is speaking as having knowledge. And the more we do this, the more that person will want to speak to us.
Additionally, less time is wasted, and tasks are accomplished more quickly when we fully pay attention to direction. In my case, it wasn’t the woman who was wasting my time, it was my refusal to listen that was causing the delay. If I had acknowledged her critique as constructive, I would have made the changes she requested sooner.
It was not until later that day, that I fully comprehended my refusal to listen was the problem.
I sat at the close of yoga class. The instructor asked us to sit in a circle, legs crossed, knee to knee. We placed our left hand on our hearts and our right on the back of the person next to us.
Sitting in that circle in silence, we listened to the rhythm of our heartbeats.
It was a simple gesture, yet I listened. I heard my heartbeat. I heard my neighbor’s heartbeat. I did not judge it. I just observed, calmly and patiently. Beat by beat, I listened.
It’s really just that simple. If we sit and allow ourselves to be connected, then we will truly hear the words as they are spoken.
Just like tiny heartbeats, they are nothing more than a pattern of sounds waiting to be received.
Author: Jane CoCo Cowles
Apprentice Editor: Monica LaSarre; Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: NomiZ25/ DeviantArt