"Well, I think part of my gift, if I have one, is that I love listening."
-- Eric Clapton
We all know how good it feels to be really, really listened to. It is healing when we feel heard. But as you have likely discovered, good listeners are hard to find.
Rather than wishing that you knew more people -- or anyone, for that matter -- that listens well, I would recommend that you simply learn to be a good listener yourself.
Listening is an art. It is something we can cultivate over time. Some people have this more naturally than others, but anyone can learn the art of listening.
The trick to listening is to hear without judgment.
• It is not about just being quiet until the other person is done speaking.
• It is not about formulating your counter-thought while they are talking.
• It is not about sifting through all of your opinions until something they say matches up with something you already think.
• It's not about fixing the problem you perceive they are saying.
• It is not about arguing, or being louder, to make your point.
• It is not about being right.
It's about being present -- from your heart -- and listening with your heart, to what that person is really trying to say. It's about developing an open mind. It is a conscious practice of not jumping to preconceived conclusions or fixed opinions. It is simply listening with an open heart.
Just like a musician can have a good ear for music, or a gardener has a green thumb, or a mom has a mother's intuition, it is the love of the subject that lets us listen past the words; it is love that keeps us interested, attentive, and caring.
Whether we are talking about the musician or the gardener, the mother or the listener, the common denominator here is love. The musician, out of love of the harmony will develop a more discerning ear. The gardener feels the heartbeat of the earth. A mother senses every nuance of her newborn's breath, and a good listener really cares about the person that is speaking.
This cannot be faked.
Everyone feels everything. Like dogs in a park, we all know who's boss -- and who's not. By a sniff! And, as you've seen, it's not about which is the biggest (or the smallest). It can be the Chihuahua who rules the pack! We all feel energy.
When we are listening from our heart, or what I would call conscious listening, the other person feels heard -- because they are being heard. We are not judging as we are listening, we are simply bearing witness to someone's heart. This is a gift that we can give. And the one who is being heard can feel it -- and knows it.
Listening is an act of love. When we love someone, we listen more deeply. We are hearing the tone of their voice, the rhythm of the cadence of their speech, the rise and fall of their inflection. We are hearing the real meaning of what they are saying, beyond the words they are using! This active listening is a deeper kind of intimacy.
Listening is inherently deeply respectful.
It says, I want to know you. You matter to me. I care what you are saying.
It says, I love you, so I hear you.
When we fall in love we are all excellent listeners. We really care. We really do want to know every little thing about them. We are paying 100 percent attention. We are not distracted; we are not thinking about something else; we are not thinking about ourselves. We are thinking about them and only them, and vice versa!
When we really listen, listening without judgment or agenda, we will experience an entirely different sort of conversation. It becomes a divine discourse. It is a true exchange of love. It is real connection. Our conversation becomes a collaboration and a grand exchange of intertwining concepts and ideas that we are sharing. We can lift each other up to higher and higher levels of mutual understanding.
Rather than trading opinions at each other, we become two people sharing ourselves with each other. Our conversation becomes a discussion versus a debate. It becomes a joyous interchange rather than a mental jousting match. When two people consciously converse, new ideas can develop. Both people will be expanded and come to new understandings and points of view.
This is conscious conversation.
What if we could begin to listen like this to everyone -- our hairstylist, the plumber, our mother, our kids, our partner -- with this much presence? Imagine a world where we really hear each other, rather than judge each other. What kind of world could we make?
Diana Lang is a spiritual teacher and author of
OPENING TO MEDITATION -- www.DianaLang.com