Wait… what? Did you say something? Within minutes of our flight landing I noticed something was different. You know that feeling when your ears pop and you can hear yourself talking as if you were inside a can. For twelve days my hearing, which is already compromised, was even worse. A further loss of hearing amplified and deepened my appreciation of what it means to truly listen.
Having been a therapist for over 20 years, I am all too familiar with the challenges many of us struggle with regarding communicating more effectively so as to be heard, as well as how to truly listen. Although my hearing impairment posed new challenges, it presented superb opportunities to listen differently.
Just as in my mindfulness practice, I found myself observing the “noises” coming at me. Tension was felt everywhere. My whole body was leaning in; struggling to capture enough words to string together some semblance of comprehension.
I grew weary. I became quiet. A softening occurred. Then I remembered. Be still, be aware and unhook.
I became more discriminating as to where I would exert energy into listening with greater concentration.
Observing nuances, simple gestures, eye contact or the lack thereof danced before me inviting a different kind of connection, a different listening. It was as if I was a photographer trying to understand someone’s story by creating enough space for that story to unveil itself without my prompting.
Spaces expanded or narrowed between others. Glimpses of how we distance with our bodies became accentuated.
Words spoken and unspoken hung in the air begging for attention. Listening at this level disarmed most defenses and/or the need to criticize. I became more available. More present. More “tuned in” to what was being “said” and “shared.”
Why, you may ask, does any of this matter if you have perfect hearing?
Well, let’s just say it’s an invitation. An opportunity.
Good hearing doesn’t mean you listen well.
We live in times where “noise” and constant stimulation (emails, text, tweets, FB, iPods, iPads, cell phones, laptops etc.) compete for our attention.
We overanalyze, overthink and overreact to much of what is being said that actually isn’t being said at all. We hear by filtering through our past experiences. When we hear from these places we are not truly listening to the other.
Listening with the intent to understand is a remarkable gift we can give ourselves as well as others.
Think about it. When was the last time you truly listened to someone? Or. When was the last time you felt someone truly listened to you without judgment or reaction? When was the last time you gently cupped someone’s chin in the palm of your hand, looked deeply into his or her eyes and said, “I hear your pain. I hear your struggle. I am here without judgment or advice. I am deeply listening."
Take good care, Patti
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” ― Stephen R. Covey,