The Art of Listening
To truly listen can be a hard task, perhaps even a hard ‘ask’. Likewise, to have someone really listen to you, can be a rare thing nowadays. Many listen half-heartedly unintentionally, whilst keeping an eye on their emails on their laptop or phone or their eyes and concentration on the TV or those around them. You can probably picture it, you are trying to tell your partner, or colleague or friend something, which may be very important to you, and yet you just know that you aren’t truly being listened to, which can be extremely frustrating. We are all guilty of it I’m sure, after all most of us have busy lives, working, juggling family life, thinking of a hundred things at once, multi-tasking, wondering what we will cook for dinner that evening, trying to remember if you called your Mum back earlier…etc etc…, the list goes on.
It’s so easy to get into the habit of not listening properly, but it really is such an important life skill, therefore if we can practice the art of listening well, our lives surely will become richer for it? Though, to listen well, in turn we should master how to be quiet and be silent. This can be a harder task than concentrating on listening, as silence can be uncomfortable for some, yet like anything in life, if you practice and keep at it, you become used to it.
It’s not the same as meditating, where you ‘zone’ out or take your mind to a different place, this is just being completely quiet, silent, with no distractions on around you, such as your phone or the radio or TV, just you and your thoughts. It is good for us to do this now and then, to embrace some ‘alone’ time to yourself with just your thoughts. This especially can be such a valuable exercise to do with so many of us working from home right now, with many different emotions running around our minds. In many households, there may be at least two members of the house working from home and with zoom calls and busy schedules etc, tensions can understandably sometimes rise, and so it is crucial that we each take time out for ourselves, with no other noises or distractions around us.
Once we become comfortable with silence, it makes sense that in turn we become better listeners. You may have been an excellent listener to begin with, which is fantastic, but there is always room for improvement, right? To truly listen to someone who is speaking to us, whatever the subject, and give them your total undivided attention, is not just an important skill to master, but equally a selfless, gratifying gesture.
I am sure you know yourself, when someone hasn’t really heard what you have just been telling them for the past fifteen minutes and that can be quite demoralising can’t it? However, we are all probably guilty of it at times, without realising it or meaning it, hence if we practice the art of listening, we have the potential to become better, learned people from the experience.
In the current climate, with many seeking new employment, attending job interviews, asking others’ advice, and also those that are struggling mentally and reaching out to others’ to talk about their worries and feelings, it really is more important than ever to be a good listener. It could make such a difference to that person in their time of need.
Whilst you listen though, be mindful of eye contact! This is so important as it lets the person who is talking to you know that they have your full attention. Personally, I think it also denotes respect. Similarly, I believe our ‘body language’ also displays whether we are truly listening or not. If someone is slouched, whether sitting or standing, it could be easy to make the assumption that you are boring that person or they can’t be bothered to listen to you. In a job interview for example, the way you sit is highly important; a good prospective employer would be sure to notice this.
Learning to listen well and be happy with silence, isn’t just important when conversing with others’, it can bring meaning to many other aspects of our lives’. It can enhance our personal relationships greatly, our communication in general with friends, colleagues and family and we in turn can learn so much more, as when we take time to stop, to quieten and listen, this increases our learning as we learn new things not just about others’, but also about ourselves.
There are many quotes around, on the subjects of listening and silence, and I’m sure you have seen or heard them before, but surely it can’t be a coincidence that the word SILENT, contains the exact same letters as LISTEN…. Think about it.