This post on listening is the very first post I put up on Sharing A Journey. I’ve re-worked it because, well, my first go at it was a bit cringe-worthy and while the thought was good, the execution was…not. I’m sharing this reworked version for two reasons: one, because learning “deep listening” techniques significantly improved my life I wanted to share what I learned with you, it if you haven’t already been doing it, and because I wanted to challenge myself to improve your experience here at Sharing A Journey by updating posts when I have fresh information or just want to bring you better content. I’d love to hear your thoughts on upping your listening game—If you’ve had an experience please share it in the comment section below.
I’ve always prided myself on being a pretty good listener, but even those with the best of listening skills miss things, misconstrue messages, which hinder our ability to hear the message, connect on a deeper level and maybe even learn from the speaker.
Here’s how to Deeply Listen:
1. Sit comfortably, and set an intention to be open to what the speaker has to say. It’s difficult to really listen to someone when you are uncomfortable to begin with. So get comfortable, give the gift of eye contact and receptive open body language.
2. Take a few deep breaths, and settle in, I’m often anxious, so I need to remind myself to relax, and with a couple of subtle relaxing breaths, you give your body the message that you are safe and open. It’s hard to listen with the “fight or flight” button turned on!
3. Listen without thinking of responses or making it about yourself. Let the speaker just have a go. I’ve learned as a recovering advice giver that most people already know what they need to do, and we all know there’s nothing worse than a “listener” who shifts the conversation around to themselves all the time. Listening is such a gift, so many people really need someone to just be there and hear what they have to say.
4. Notice your responses, but try draw yourself back to the speaker, her energy, what she’s saying and, if you are person to person, watch her body language. All this gives you extra information about the speaker and what she’s trying to convey. Is her body language congruent with what she’s saying? Is she happy or in distress? Is she nervous?
5. Allow a few second’s pause before responding. When I started pausing, I discovered that people sometimes added more to the conversation. It also gave me a little time to respond in a more thoughtful way.
6. Ask questions and get clarification, if necessary. Repeat back what you think you’ve heard. And, if it’s a business discussion, move toward consensus and identifying actionable items. I like to have a piece of paper, and doodle the key words, especially if I need to remember the information.
7. Make sure you give non-verbal clues that you are listening such as nodding, or saying “I hear you,”. My therapist used to say “I hear you” a lot. At first I was a little put off, so I asked her about it. She explained that hearing was different than agreeing.
8. You don’t have to agree with the speaker. That’s why saying “I hear you” is so important. If you agree, of course you can say you agree, but if you don’t, simply say, “I hear you.”
How deep listening can change your life:
1. By really listening and hearing what others say, we gain a deeper and more clear understanding of what they are trying to convey.
2. By noticing but not acting on our own reactions and inclinations to respond before really receiving the message and reminding ourselves that we are there to listen, we hear more of what’s being said.
3. We reduce the possiblity of being “triggered” by a phrase, or minsundersting the message because we allow ourselves to hear the entirety of what is being said, rather than immediately reacting to bits and pieces.
4. By hearing, we gain a deeper connection, we may find ourselves increasing compassion, and seeing beauty, vulnerability, and can respond more authentically to the speaker’s massage.
5. By listening, we can sometimes see the speaker’s dark side, their fears and suffering. I found myself less threatened, and the ability to take what they were saying less personally by using deep listening skills.
Find a quiet space where you will be comfortable and uninterrupted. Set a silent timer for five to ten minutes. Begin by taking a slow deep breath through the nose, filling your lungs and abdomen. Slowly exhale through your mouth. Close your eyes down, and continue to focus on long, slow deep breath. Begin noticing the sounds around you and identifying each one. A car…the clock…a bird…the bird alarm clock…I begin to notice the the vibrations with in the sounds, and how they penetrate the body, the high squeal of the garbage truck’s brakes sound at the top of the skull, how the rumble of thunder seems to deeply penetrate the whole body and how the may air conditioners humming in the neighborhood cause a continuous vibration in the body that we don’t notice unless we pay close attention. To end the meditation, begin to bring your attention back to your breathing. Open your eyes, stretch a bit and return to your day.