Listening in Depth
We developed our sense of hearing while in the womb - only 16 weeks after we were conceived. Learning to listen, however, is a life-long work in progress. When we listen fully, we go beyond the words we hear uttered. When we become completely present with someone who is talking, deep listening lets us hear unexpressed feelings. These feelings are pointers to beautiful, life-affirming longings or needs. Sometimes, when we listen to someone – especially someone we are already in some kind of relationship with, we listen with “pre-conceived ears.” For example, when we have the belief that someone is “negative, irresponsible, weird”, etc. we already listen to them through filters; we let those statements in that appear to prove how negative, irresponsible or weird they are. Likewise, when we hold the idea that someone is “funny, smart, optimistic” we unconsciously retain the parts of what they say that seem to verify they are that kind of person. We do the same thing to ourselves in our internal dialogue and repeat over and over messages that evidence how “this or that” we are. Listening in this way is somewhat superficial and often times lead us to projections, criticisms, and judgments. Listening with pre-conceived ears does not grant us the authentic connection that so many of us crave.
Listening in depth gives us more choices to respond to life and to contribute to each other. For example, someone might tell us they “messed up.” Here we have a great opportunity to listen to them deeply. What feelings might there be present for this person? Could it be frustration, shock, stress? And what mattered to that person that might have been calling their attention? Could it have been competence, trust, integrity? Listening in this way allows us to go to a place of deep connection with that person. We can even do this type of listening silently and we will notice a level of presence and connection with the other person that is nourishing and warm. When we listen in this way – with compassionate and full presence - we listen with our hearts and are thus more open to be empathic and responsive, instead of judgmental or reactive.
Next time you listen to someone, try this and let me know how it goes:
1. Connect to your breath to be present and calm.
2. Stay with what you are hearing.
3. Look at the person to find more information in their gestures or listen to the tone of voice, the rhythm of their voice, the speed of their speech.
4. Ask yourself silently “what could this person be feeling in relationship to what they are saying?”
5. Ask yourself silently “what might be important to this person that is being fulfilled by what they are saying?
6. Ask yourself, “How could I contribute to our connection and to this person’s life?” It may be that you just need to say nothing and listen for a few more seconds. Perhaps a suggestion pops up; if it does, ask the person if they would like to hear your suggestion.
There are many possibilities here, and exploring those is an important part of Language Alchemy. For now stick to this simple process.
I would love to hear from you how this short powerful practice was for you.