"Most of the successful people I know are the ones who do more listening than talking."
Bernard M Baruch
We all know how important listening is. I don' have to persuade you of the merits of deep listening. It lies at the foundation of all good communication. Sometimes we are duped into thinking that it is speaking that makes for good communication. In truth it is listening that creates high quality communication. Hearing what is said as well as what is unsaid. Hearing the concepts, ideas and perspectives of others allow us to really extend and adapt our own thinking and to discover possibilities not yet contemplated in our own thinking.
Listening is that beautiful act of service and of love, that if done well, leaves us feeling seen, heard, attended to, held, honoured and loved. In listening there is infinite value for both the listener and the one listened to.
"Listening is an art that requires attention over talent, spirit over ego, others over self."
Thanks to our ability to listen good ideas become great ideas and we are able to launch businesses that outlive us, flourish as families and communities, and we are able to feel our value in the attention of another human being.
Why then is listening so very hard for us?
Or is it just me?
The inferences I experience with my listening have little to do with my ears, which work perfectly well. There are so many inner games that compromise my ability to listen, and they all relate to my egoic needs for distraction, self-promotion and self-preservation. Almost the instant that I engage in conversation an invisible pattern of thinking reveals itself through my behaviours. At times I launch into judgment and discount the sentiments being shared and explored with me. Other times, the attachments I hold to pre-existing notions make it almost impossible for me to hear anything else. I want to match what I hear to my own experience of reality, and to make it fit a narrative that allows me to keep my own world in a state of equilibrium.
Even though I am not under attack, I feel the need to defend an idea or a preference or a position. This, despite the fact that the other person has no real opinion either way. From time to time, I hear myself talking over another, persuading them of a view, and demonstrating my knowledge as if that will somehow convince them of a worthiness I hold. Worse yet, I am so embroiled in my own thoughts and distractions that I don’t hear, and I don’t see, and I am locked out of a beautiful opportunity to listen and to honour and to love.
In a word, I feel resistance.
"The biggest problem with listening is that we do not listen with the intention to hear, and to understand. We listen with the intention to reply."
When I have gotten it right, or even right-ish, practicing the skill of listening has over time yielded many benefits to me, professionally and personally. I have come to learn that few things are more sacred than simply listening and holding a space free of judgment for others. I have come to understand, that to listen, I must get out of my own way. I must find a way to know nothing and to be curious and to be fascinated and to be grateful.
"One of the greatest forms of respect, is actually listening to what another has to say."
Bryant M. McGill
Here is the biggest lesson of them all for me as it relates to listening.
I am ALWAYS the BIGGEST beneficiary of my own listening. In that moment, however brief, when I truly listen, in that moment when I let go of my inner chatter of judgment, comparison, attachment, defence, preservation, or promotion, I slip into a state that I can only describe as weightless.
I feel connected, yet untethered. I feel reverence and humility. I feel expanded yet contained. I feel relieved of all resistance, and I feel free and truly human and ultimately, I feel sacred. Sometimes, this moment of listening is brief, and yet, it exists as a momentary eternity. My tensions slip from my body and my brain works without obstruction.
So now, I think of listening, not only as an instrument for communication. I think of it as more than act of service and of love. I think of listening as an opportunity for mindfulness and for connecting with my own god-spark.
I think of listening as a sublime treasure that is only mine and now, I seek to welcome it.
"I remind myself each day, that nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I am going to learn, I must do it by Listening"