The Art of Listening

Listening is tough stuff. Being able to put aside our own thoughts and ideas and perceptions as well as being able to listen through disagreeing with the speaker is truly an art. When someone speaks to you, how often do you stop what you are doing and thinking and feeling and truly be present with the other?

So often we are busy cooking or cleaning or getting ready for work or to go out, and also in our own thoughts when someone speaks to us. If you are like me and my husband, we find ourselves speaking to each other even in different rooms. The art of listening is truly an art and it also shows the other person that we care.

Another dynamic at play is that we hear the other person through our own filters. An example of this happened with my husband and me just recently. I had explained to my husband the other night how I felt about a television show we watched together. I thought I was very clear. I told him that to me the show was ok, I didn’t love it but I could see why it engrossed him and that I enjoyed watching it with him. He later the same evening said something about my not liking it and sorry he asked me to watch it with him. That is what he heard. Does this type of scenario sound familiar? We hear through the filters of the self-beliefs we carry.

Our beliefs about us and others cloud our eyes and our ears to what others are saying. If we feel bad about ourselves, when someone looks at us a certain way, no matter what they say, we may actually hear the words as derogatory. Our beliefs can also cloud us from seeing, hearing, and accept who the other is. When we want someone to be a certain way it is very easy for us to blindly hear their words the way we want to.  And it is also easy for us to not hear what they are saying and take in who they are and how they feel about something or someone because they aren't who we want them to be. How often do you miss hear your partner or your child or sibling, etc., because they aren't saying what you would like to hear about them? I imagine that happens very frequently. Yet, when we really hear and respond to the other so they are really heard, they feel so good. We all want to be heard and seen and understood. Can we let go of as many filters as we can so that we can really connect with others?

When we are with someone for a long time, or with our families for a long time and we suddenly see them and hear them for who and what they are, it can be very disconcerting to us. What it really means is that we are finally able to see and accept them for who they are. For us to do that, it means we are also more clearly accepting us for who we are. What is true is that we attract and partner with those who unconsciously remind us of the old traumas and unresolved issues we have with those in our family; most especially our parents. In order for us to really listen to others, can we see the other through a clear lens, and not see them through the lens of our parents? Can we set aside our thoughts and feelings at the time and really be present to our partners, our siblings, our friends, our children, our colleagues? Even just realizing that our minds are not clear is a great start to really listening. In a few minutes, I will take you through an exercise to practice this art of listening. As we do, we become more present to us, and we become present to others.

Shift Your Story/Shift Your Life

Exercise: Do this exercise every day for two weeks and see how it works for you. Find a time where you make a pact with yourself to really listen to someone in your life for 5 minutes that day. Put aside your thoughts, your pre-conceived notions, your day's activities, and sit and just consciously listen to the other. Really listen to what they are saying. If it feels right, then say back to them what you heard them say. Do this for just 5 minutes every day and see how it works for you. Notice, just notice, if and when your mind strays. It could be when something the other says triggers you, or if something that is said reminds you of something you wanted to remember, etc. When you notice your mind straying, just continue to listen as if it didn't stray. Afterward, write down how this exercise was for you.

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