Listening is an art. It requires us to be fully present in our conversations with others.
Every person who crosses our path is both a teacher and a student. Their life, like our own, is an accumulation of painful and pleasant lessons. When we practice the art of listening, we can learn from one another’s lives. And, we can help one another overcome suffering.
Listening For Growth
Listening is important for growth. By practicing it, we can learn from other people’s experiences, build upon their successes, and avoid their mistakes.
My dedication to listening and learning has played out significantly in my relationship with my mentors. I learned and grew tremendous amounts by listening to them. Their advice about where to focus my time and energy, and mistakes to avoid enabled me to quickly overcome the challenges that often delayed the growth and progress of my peers.
Listening is a critical component of communication. In order to be an effective communicator, we must be as good at listening as we are at speaking. The more we listen, the more likely we are to be listened to. This is because when the other person feels fully heard, and thereby respected, they are more likely to reciprocate.
Listening can also mend broken relationships. Arguments with our family, colleagues and friends are most frequently the result of miscommunication. If we can learn to listen to others, we can identify what we may be doing that is causing the other person suffering and/or help them correct their wrong perceptions about us.
Listening As A Service
True happiness comes from what we give and not what we receive. As such, the art of listening is most powerful when it is practiced without desire for personal gain. Listening is an act of service.
This is a challenge for some of us because our society has told us it is most important to focus on ourselves. As such, instead of listening authentically to the person with whom we are communicating, we begin crafting our response while the other person is still speaking or become lost in our own thoughts. This may be because we feel like we already know what the other person is going to share, or because we feel what we have to say is more clever or important, or because we are simply too distracted with our own projects and goals to focus.
When we are not listening, the person with whom we are communicating instinctually knows that they do not have our attention. For this reason, many people never share their deepest challenges, fears, and lessons with us. This is a missed opportunity to learn from and serve one another.
Practicing the Art of Listening
The art of listening is crucial for all of us, whether we are a student, employee, parent, partner, friend, or family member.
Here are four methods through which you can practice becoming a better listener:
- Practice Mindfulness: We can improve our focus by reducing the noise (excessive thoughts) in our heads. We can practice this through mindfulness exercises such as meditation.
- Keep Eye Contact: We must not let our attention drift to our phone, tablet, or surroundings during the conversation. A great listener gives the speaker their undivided attention, even if it is over the phone.
- Do Not Interrupt: We must resist the urge to interrupt the speaker by asking a question or sharing a similar experience. Though this can be difficult at first, it 1) ensures the speaker is able to fully communicate their message and 2) ensures that we do not miss an opportunity to learn from their lesson.
- Ask Follow-Up Questions: We can ensure we understand the speaker’s message by asking follow-up questions. This shows the speaker that we are interested in listening more than in a rush to make our own points.
By mastering the art of listening, we will never miss an opportunity to grow and serve through our conversations.