Are you a good listener? I am sure most people would answer yes to this question but then upon reflection, if they were honest, might consider otherwise. Listening is a skill and one which, like all other skills, can be learned.
I haven’t always been a good listener. In fact years ago, when I was younger, I was one of those people who listened to speak or perhaps didn’t even listen before I spoke. Just jumping in whenever a thought popped into my head. It stings a little to say that, but if I am being true to myself, it is most definitely the case. It wasn’t that I didn’t care what other people had to say, it was just an instinctual thing that I had something to say, add or that must be heard and so interrupted, constantly. I do have a character trait of being in my own bubble and not always having that filter of thinking before I speak, but my listening skills have most definitely improved over time.
Not too many years ago, however, I had a session with this guy, who I guess for want of a better word was a coach. His approach was slightly random in that you walked outside for your sessions. Interesting concept and one which definitely created an environment that was conducive to growth.
He observed me in a meeting before our first session and then when we met up for our ‘walk’, he told me exactly what he thought of me in terms of how I show up. I was so incredibly offended. Partially because there was some truth in what he was saying, but also because really I felt he wasn’t actually seeing all facets of me, just one of them. He hadn’t taken the time to listen to me. After I got over the initial feeling of being wounded by his words, I faced up to them and thought that I seriously needed to work on my listening skills.
Listening skills are something I have worked on for years and although, as I said, I have got much better at it, I still have a long way to go. I think if we can be forever a humble student there is always, always more to learn.
Recently, I’ve noticed with much profoundness, the number of people I’ve come into contact with who do not listen, at all, nor have any seeming desire to hear anything other than their own voice and what they have to say. Perhaps I could look at this from the angle of, I am simply listening more and so hearing more. Although to be honest most of these people, when I do try to speak, really don’t listen at all, or when I have said something, they immediately turn the conversation once again to, I, and begin to go on again about themselves…
Deep sigh…I am finding this terribly frustrating, which usually means there is much to be learned. Being mindful in these circumstances helps because it brings your attention not only to the person who is speaking but to what comes up within you, giving you the opportunity to choose how you respond.
Perhaps we merely need to listen and smile, wish the person well and move on…everyone has a perspective, some have the ability to only see one; their own, whereas others have the ability to see many and want to hear with interest what others say….
Being present enables you to decide where you are in this scenario…when we are quiet we can hear…we cannot listen if we do not cease our own chatter first and create the space to listen to others.
[This image is of my friend, Tori, who, when I thought about a photograph to show good listening, popped straight into my mind. Tori is a great listener!]