“To listen impatiently is to hear nothing at all… Formulating an opinion is not listening. Neither is preparing a response, or defending our position, or attacking another’s position. Listening is suspending disbelief.” Rick Rubin, The Creative Act
The sad truth is that most of us listen with the intent to reply, not to understand.
After more than 30 years of studying and practicing the Art of Listening, I continue to fight my desire to be right and to make my opinion known to those I am speaking with. Although I practice artful listening so much better than I once did, still, my ego is not wholly prepared to take a back seat. I want my ideas and my positions on issues to be known. It seems to be some kind of maneuver to attain respect and validation.
The Human Need to Be Heard
But, as we all know, conversation does that work well that way. I believe that one of the strongest desires of all humans is to be heard—a truth I live by. However, in order to fulfill that desire sometimes I need to be the “hearer” of others that need to be heard.
Surprisingly, I have discovered that a most effective way to be heard comes by means of presence. Sometimes I am heard best in my compassionate silence where I am not heard by means of words, but by curious engagement with the words of another person.
Listen with Curiosity
One of my favorite delights is my curiosity. I hunger to learn and what better way to learn than through the lives of others.
I am tempted to say that the failure to listen with a genuine desire to understand is a lost art. But we all know, it is not a lost art because it never existed in the first place. So how can it be lost.
Instead, patient listening needs to be developed and nurtured. I think that compassionate and curious listening ought to be a primary goal of all of us who desire to impact, with care, the lives of those we know and even those we don’t know well.
A Listening “Hack”
Sometimes I remember to practice a listening “hack”—a short cut to listening better. When in my role as a listener I attempt hold back on my first (or even second) temptation to offer my response or opinion… or even a question. I just sit and listen. My friends with superb listening skills, like my life coach Kamin Samuel, will never (and I mean never) respond until she is confident that I have nothing else to say.
Such a gift.
The wordless Presence of Silence may be the greatest gift we can offer to the other people in our lives.
Try it. But know that it’s REALLY hard!
Feeds the Hungry Soul
Photo courtesy of fizkes at istockphoto