“Most people can talk without listening. Very few can listen without talking.”
—Bruce Lee, Hong Kong and American martial artist, actor, philosopher
Image from Unsplash by Brett Jordan
It’s easy to look at today’s quote and nod our heads in agreement.
I bet you can think of dozens of people in your personal and professional communities that fit this idea to a tee.
Perhaps you are evolved enough to know that when you point a finger at others there are three fingers in you palm pointing right back at you.
What makes listening to others so difficult?
What gets in the way that we neglect to give others our undivided attention? Perhaps it may have something to do with the fact that we are always talking.
Although words may not be coming from our mouth, we always seem to make our inner voices our top priority.
How often do you get annoyed when two people or more are talking at the same time?
Given that one of these people is always you, how could you pause to fully honor what others have to say?
“To truly listen is to risk being changed forever.”
—Sa’K’es Henderson, Native American elder
Image from Unsplash by Brett Jordan
Theologian Paul Tillich said, “The first duty of love is to listen.” With this in mind, how much love have you shown others with your open ears and heart?
Perhaps you’ve noticed what might be called self-love, in that many listen more closely to their own inner voices than they do to others.
Most people would agree that being an excellent listener is critical to quality relationships and a happy life.
Unfortunately, we often talk a good game and even attend workshops and seminars on this topic only to demonstrate our desire to be more interesting rather than interested.
How open are you to being changed forever? What rewards will be available when you bring a new level of love to your listening?
What is the level of your listening? Who in your life deserves your very best efforts, in which you listen for what is said and not said?
—Calm App Reflection
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Do you consider yourself a good listener? Why or why not?
My listening skills have improved considerably since I began my meditation practice. The people I am with take on greater importance and I do my best to make them the complete center of my attention.
Showing sincere interest, listening carefully, and letting them fully express themselves are my chief aims in each interaction.
What is the level of your listening? How can you go even deeper in your most important relationships?
When was the last time you listened to the stories of others?”
—Question put to the sick by a native American medicine man
Image from Unsplash by Brett Jordan
I love the idea that when you listen to others you honor them. I also value that we learn most of life’s lessons when our ears and hearts are opened and our mouths are closed.
How much have you learned in the past year by listening to the stories of others?
How fully did you honor their efforts and courage to distill their nuggets of wisdom?
What opportunities did you miss by focusing on your stories and the desire to be interesting versus interested?
Take a few extra minutes today to listen more deeply and carefully to the stories of others in your personal or professional communities. Please reply to this post with a lesson you learned or how your relationship was enhanced.
“Good listeners are like trampolines.”
—Harvard Business Review
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When questioned about one’s listening skills, most people describe themselves above or well above average, similar to when queried about their driving ability.
As markers for this self-assessment, they often confirm this bias by the fact that they do not talk while others are speaking. They can often repeat word-for-word what others have said.
In the book Mindful Listening, six levels of listening are described, with each going deeper into greater levels of mastery. Hallmarks of the very best listeners include:
- The use of powerful questions to clarify assumptions
- Selectively injecting some thoughts and ideas on the topic at hand that could be useful to the other person
- Great listeners never highjack the conversation and make it about themselves
- They act as trampolines instead of sponges. Their efforts amplify, energize, and clarify ones thinking.
Where and with whom in your personal or professional life would being a more masterful listener make the biggest difference? Consider exploring Mindful Listening as a helpful resource in this effort.
“Argue as if you are right and listen as if you are wrong.”
—Chip Conley, American hotelier, author, and speaker
Image from Unsplash by Maria Krisanova
We all desire autonomy. We all wish to be heard and to have what we say make an impact and influence our world. To do that, we must voice our thoughts and opinions, sometimes loudly.
After all, speaking about the future well beyond our current reality may never be noticed if we are silent or only whisper our views to avoid a ruckus.
We have two ears and one mouth. Our creator must have known that we would need to hear other’s voices that might be contrary to our own, and consider the possibility of our own views being incorrect.
To what degree do you currently speak up and argue for what you believe?
How carefully and completely do you currently listen to others, given the potential for being wrong?
In which of these areas and with whom would an extra effort make the biggest difference?
“The more you know about the people you serve, the better you serve the people you know.”
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Whenever I am asked to give a presentation to a group, I always take considerable time to get to know my audience. I also find this especially important in the discovery phase of a successful coaching engagement.
Although I have access to many tools and techniques to support their developmental goals, the resources are of little value to those attending my programs who are not seeking or open to what I wish to share.
Many years ago, I learned a concept that makes this point nicely. Simply stated: Speak to their Listening.
Where and with whom can and will you take time to learn more about the people you serve so you can better serve the people you know?
“The word ‘listen’ has the same letters as the word ‘silent.’”
—Alfred Brendel, Austrian pianist, poet and author
Image from Unsplash by Jodie P.
How high would you rate yourself in the category of listening?
How close do you come to the two-to-one ratio implied by the fact that you have two ears and only one mouth?
What makes this skill so very difficult?
Perhaps it has to do with the fact that we almost always listening to our own inner thoughts and opinions instead of granting others the respect and honor of our silence and full attention.
With whom in your personal or professional communities would it make the biggest difference if you silenced your inner voice and listened far more deeply?
“You should not decide until you have heard what both sides have to say.”
—Aristophanes, 4th Century BC Greek Playwright
Image from Unsplash by Ehimetalor Unuabono
Do you ever say — aloud or perhaps even more often to yourself — “My mind is made up” or “I know!”? How often do you get the impression that others in your personal or professional communities express similar thoughts?
If these scenarios sound familiar, you are probably dealing with what I call “Shortcut Listening.” This happens when an individual or group gathers just enough information to fill in the rest of the word puzzles based on their own opinions, experiences, and biases.
Where and with whom would taking the long road of listening help you and others make far better decisions at work and at home?
“Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming.”
—David Bowie, late British singer, actor, and songwriter
Image from Unsplash by Kyle Glenn
In the animal kingdom the ability to hear is critical to survival regardless of whether you are predator or prey. The other senses definitely have their role in making sure they get to experience another day, or even the next moment.
What are the ways you currently sense what is just around the corner or perhaps far off in the distance? Consider this question for both personal and professional matters that are urgent and important to not only surviving, but thriving.
How might applying a herd mentality – where you are just one of many sets of eyes, ears, and noses – broaden your capacity to sense and react more quickly and more proactively?
Consider reaching out to family, friends, teachers, mentors, and coaches in your current communities to have many more better tomorrows.