If there was one thing I wish people learned much, much more than they do now, it would be how to truly listen. Because we human beings are really starving for good listening.
So many times, so many conflicts would be more quickly resolved, if people just listened better. And by that I don’t mean simply hearing everything and being able to repeat the words back.
Real listening involves listening without judgment. It means that you can hear anything, taking it all completely in, and not close up.
For many people, this is a radical thought. Aren’t there some things that just can’t or shouldn’t be heard?
That depends on your perspective, really. Sure, there are things people say that are violent and repulsive, and we are not robots, so it’s natural to feel like certain things should be off-limits.
BUT… the best among us can listen to virtually anything, keeping their mind open, staying in the moment, not running away. Even the most awful things. Usually with no knee-jerk reaction.
And that’s the thing: knee-jerk reactions, no matter how mild, are signs of not listening. And they happen all the time.
Now, this is not to say that we should just ignore the reactions we have inside to things we hear. That is vitally important – it’s what makes us humans, and not robots.
However, we have a choice we often do not realize. We can admit the full truth about what we hear, not shut ourselves off from it, and also choose not to react with a cookie-cutter reflex to it. And it is very important to notice how something or somebody you are listening to makes you feel. Listen to yourself, too–this is vital!
Listen to it all. Notice the other person’s reactions. Notice your own reactions. If other people are around, notice their reactions. Hear not just what people say, but in what context they say it. Hear how badly the other person wants to be heard.
A lot of the time, we don’t see how much we and others want to be heard. If people talk loudly when they could have a perfectly good conversation at a much lower volume, it’s because they want badly for the other person to hear them.
But no matter how loud you talk or how good you are at interrupting, you can’t make the other person listen to you. However, you can start the “cycle of listening” yourself.
Remember also–you don’t have to say anything. You are under no divine obligation to fill in the blank. You can just sit back…and listen.
As much as you can, especially if the other person shows signs of wanting to be heard–let them speak. Patiently hear what they say. You may feel like they could go on forever, but they won’t. Don’t worry, you will get a chance to respond–usually they are looking of a response of some sort out of you, so your time will come to respond.
Often you will find that you have something better to say than you did before, once you have heard the other person out–and often they have actually heard you better than you think, and simply want the chance to integrate what you’ve said into their points–so that you can hear that they have listened.
One you listen to the other person and hear them out, you can respond in a lower, calmer tone of voice, and often, they will follow you. The conversation then becomes more of a conversation and less of a shouting match.
In times of trouble, in times of grief, in times of anger… a listening ear makes all the difference. Somebody who takes the time out to understand. It cools the raging fire inside. It brings rain to the parched desert of a scorched soul.
Why do you think people become violent and self-destructive in the first place? 99% of the time, it’s because they feel that nobody understands. Nobody is listening. Nobody cares.
All those killers and shooters and rapists and suicide victims we hear about… who was listening? Did they feel heard? Listened to? Why did they feel the need to do such extreme things? When they were babies they didn’t think like this.
If they had had another outlet, could they not have had help in channeling their emotions into something more constructive?
Now you see just how important this is. We really could live in such a better world if real listening were made a priority.
When you take the time out to listen, you break through. You tell someone, through your actions, that they are not alone. That they are not completely crazy. That they are not completely undeserving of love and understanding. Yes–even when it doesn’t look like people are that desperate on the outside–so often, this is what they are thinking. So often, there is a searing need inside to be heard, to be validated… but no sense of how to get that need met.
If you listen, you will see this again and again in person after person. Some of us put up better façades than others–but it doesn’t matter how strong the walls of the fortress are if the people on the inside are starving to death.
You may not realize it, but the modern world is dying of lack of listening. Our souls are deficient in this vital vitamin called being listened to. It’s damned serious.
It’s like a massive pandemic that people are not conscious of. Because real listening is so undervalued (and often so rare), it’s as if it is normal not to listen well. We don’t learn it in school, and often, our families have little to no sense of how to listen well.
And plus, we see a hundred times more examples of not listening than we do of what real listening looks like. In so many societies, drama is considered “sexier” and “more exciting” than listening. So, naturally, we often never learn good listening skills.
Listening is one of those things that you can never get too good at. Learning how to listen well is really the most fundamental ability you need in order to promote healing and positive energy. After all, it is easy to destroy… but much harder to heal. There is often a crying lack of healing in our lives… and and it can’t happen unless we work to become excellent listeners.
Listening is not a talent, or something that some people just can’t do. It is a SKILL–and an art. Anybody and everybody can learn to listen well. But there’s so little teaching about how.