This is so damn important!
If I ruled the world, “listening” would be as much a part of the school curriculum as mathematics or language or history. It would continue to be a required course in higher education also! It’s the bottomless skill, the one you can use everywhere, all the time – the one you can never, ever become “too good at” (no more than a week and a half ago, I badly disregarded a friend; I am still shaken up about it – and reminded of the ways I must continue to work on myself).
Listening is not just “hearing” something. You can hear things all the time without listening. Listening is about learning and understanding meaning. If you are good at listening, you are constantly learning.
Listening is not carried out with only your ears. The best listeners use all of their senses.
Listening is about taking in as much information as possible, in as great a detail and as wide a range as possible.
Listening involves first figuring out what the key information is, because often you don’t yet know what you’re listening for.
Listening involves staying open. Even when it hurts. You can choose to stop listening if it’s too much. In fact, there are times when you should stop for a bit! It’s just better that you be fully aware and in control of when you stop listening – because too often, we stop listening and don’t even realize it.
Listening is a judgment-free state of mind. When you listen, you may feel different things – but you can only continue to listen if you refrain from judgments.
Listening is an act of momentary vulnerability. When you are listening, you are not the actor; you are not in control. You do not make the flow of things, you go with it. It’s not about you; it’s about who and what is around you – or even, what is in you.
Listening is the ultimate act of nonviolence. Violence happens when people aren’t listening. In such moments when you are truly listening, you have absolutely no reflex or capacity for anything violent, on even a small scale. Of course, none of us are perfect with these things, or ever will be – but it’s important to see the connection, so that we can more easily choose to be nonviolent.
Indeed, listening is one of the most powerful forces for good that humankind has ever known. just think of all the good things human beings can show towards each other: Love, Compassion, Kindness, Forgiveness, Generosity, Empathy, Understanding, Consideration, Intimacy, Gratitude … Without listening, these things are completely useless! You truly cannot embody these states of mind and give this good energy to other people if you aren’t listening. (It also becomes harder to receive many of these good things as well when you aren’t listening.)
Far from everyone understands this stuff – which I think is outrageous, given just how important listening is to so many things in life! It’s almost like it’s some kind of valuable “secret”! But it shouldn’t be. Though listening can be hard to put into practice sometimes, it’s actually quite easy to have a basic understanding of how to listen – and the more we consciously practice listening, the easier it becomes to return to a listening state those times when we do get off track.
So put it into practice, and share it with your friends! Talk about it. Encourage it. Surround yourself with people that make listening a priority (and deprioritize those that don’t!). There is little else out there that is both so relatively simple in nature and and yet so powerful and wide-reaching. If you don’t give up, it usually gets easier. You develop listening habits, and your listening habits help you learn to embrace the rewards you get from listening; you also learn to remember the lessons you have listened for. It’s a self-propelling cycle, and on the whole, it makes things easier as life goes along.
This is the hidden beauty of growing older that a very listening-deficient [and youth-obsessed] culture could never teach us. This is my secret to why I’m less afraid of getting old than many people I know. :-)
And last of all, it’s important to remember that listening is not just an external process; it is a very internal one, also. Listening to yourself – your actual, involuntary self that you can’t control – is often the starting point to being able to listen to anything else.
Have a lovely day. For now, that’s all I’ve got to say.