Listening is an important skill, whether at home or at work. The best leaders – and the best friends – are able to listen well to those around them, including those they have power over.
I’ve been experimenting recently with listening. I am not strong in caring about people, listening to their problems, and engaging them on a deep level, especially if we do not have a strong friendship to begin with.
I am only starting to realize that I have a very hard heart, and I really don’t care that much about people. That needs to change. My listening skills are a reflection of that. I often want to turn the conversation so I can talk about my ideas, my achievements and my skills. And that is not loving to anyone (It’s really a form of hatred).
In an attempt to love more deeply, I’ve been trying to train myself to listen more deeply. To shut off my mouth, and listen to people with my heart. Clear my brain of all the tangents that it goes on when people talk, and just focus on what they are saying.
I was talking to a wife of a friend, and she was talking back about a struggle she was having. I wasn’t really deeply listening. I could sense that she was taking the conversation deeper, but since I wasn’t listening deeply, she wasn’t going to engage the conversation deeply. It was like she just stuck her toe in the water, found it was quite cold, and recoiled.
I realized that she had recoiled because I wasn’t listening to her heart. And I decided to try to listen better in the next few moments. Just as I was making that decision in my mind, her husband walked up and entered the discussion. As I looked at them talking, I tried to focus on the words they were saying, and just let them talk. I tried to ask questions that clarified the situation for me, and questions that tried to pull out the true meaning of what they were saying.
I was amazed at the depth of the conversation now taking place. The only factor I could point to that was different was my attitude in listening to them.
It is amazing the difference that listening can make.
I’ve been practicing it with my wife as well, and our conversations have gone deeper than they have ever gone before. I can’t believe how loving, powerful and simple true listening can be.
Here are some tips that I’ve found that really help to listen carefully.
- Don’t let your brain run away on a tangent when someone else is talking.
- Look at the other person in the eye as if you are really listening to them. Because you are listening to them. Eye contact is key.
- Engage your heart. Let yourself care about what they are saying.
- Do not try to fit your ideas into their words. Ask clarifying questions if needed, but don’t assume they are saying something they are not.
- Be patient and let them do the talking. They will finish when they are finished. The point is not about getting your own ideas in, but about letting the other person feel loved.