The art of listening
“If there was one thing you could change in your life, what would it be?” I asked a friend this morning.
“I wish people had listened. I wish I had listened. If we had, my life would have been completely different”, he replied.
That statement struck a deep cord within me.
In building the narrative of our lives, it seems to me that we overly rely on assumptions and stories based much more on what we see than what we hear. And all too often, we don’t really listen because think we already know how things are.
It’s so easy to stay on the surface. We think we know what we’re about because we are boringly well acquainted with the thoughts that go round and round in our heads. We think we know what other people are about because we like as not made a snap decision about them long ago and only pay attention to those new pieces of information about them which support our suppositions.
But how much time do we spend deeply listening to the murmurings of our heart, the shift-shaping tensions of our muscles, the swirling of energy in our guts? How often do we stop to ask ourselves what exactly are the emotions being expressed by this dance? And what unmet needs of ours are they flagging up for us? What underlying beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world are they articulating?
And we haven’t even begun to think about other people yet; about listening to the implied conversation that is constantly flowing beneath their words; listening with every one of our senses. In fact, never mind that, how about simply listening more accurately to the actual words others speak? Throughout each day, how much detail of how many conversations do we really take in? At any one time, when we are in the presence of someone else who is speaking, how much of our focus is on us, and how much on them?
These thoughts brought me back to my friend’s certainty: “My life would have been completely different if I had listened better, and if others had taken the time to listen to me better.” I wondered to what extent that is true for any of us.
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