Think about the last meaningful conversation you were in. It could have been a work environment, with a friend, or perhaps a romantic partner, a parent or close loved one. Visualize yourself in that engagement. Imagine yourself there, in the seat of the listener. Their face staring back at yours as they perhaps shared something important or expressed something difficult or emotional. Now answer this question honestly - were you listening?
Let us first make an important distinction here and now -listening and hearing are not the same. One is an automatic function of being a human that will occur without any effort on your part from now until the end of time (generally speaking, obvious adaptations aside) and the other requires you to give a damn. My favorite way to define listening is - a willingness to be impacted by what I hear. It asks you to consider the needs of the other, to be present, and to welcome the possibility that something that comes through might be of value to you as the one receiving it. It also means that there is value in simply receiving for the sake of the person sharing.
Today I had the privilege of working alongside a friend and collaborator, and another partner of his. I got to observe two very different people who have a very meaningful partnership, and who each have unique and sometimes opposing viewpoints. In taking the unbiased seat of a third party observer, I watched communication unfold in a way that was so telling, and I was reminded again of the nuances in listening, and what exactly contributes to a powerful and impactful dialogue through this lens. Today I’m inspired to share some tools that are handy to keep in your back pocket as you journey forth not just as a listener, but a really good listener.
Truly listening takes practice and a bit of finesse, but I’m confident that with commitment, anyone can harness the skill and bear witness to the occurrence of a powerful shift. It begins when we interrupt auto-pilot, and arrive in the present moment with intention.