Art of Listening


Wisdom is the reward for a lifetime of listening

A valuable gift

The gentle art of listening is a magnificent gift that we can give to others and ourselves. When we listen to others, we show that what they have to say is worthwhile. Therefore, we instill in them self-worth and confidence. Even if what they have to say doesnt help us, it will help them, for as flowers unfold and mature when placed in the sun, people blossom and grow when exposed to a listening ear.

The benefit to us is equally important; after all, how can we learn unless we listen? Thats why Zeno of Citium said, more than 2,000 years ago, The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is that we may listen the more and talk the less. The reward for listening, then, is wisdom.

When listening to good friends, we may be exposed to knowledge, inspiration, and sound advice. For this reason Henry J. Kaiser said, I make progress by having people around me who are smarter than I am and listening to them. And I assume that everyone is smarter about something than I am.

Although failure to listen can be harmful, no one ever listens themselves out of a job, sale, or friendship! By listening to others we learn what to do and what to avoid. At the same time we forge relationships that strengthen our position. Friends speaking in confidence reveal that they experience the same feelings we do, so we learn that we are not alone. Listening is also an opportunity to console, reassure, and comfort others.

How to listen

Being a good listener isnt easy. In fact, the only easy listening youll find is on the radio! What makes listening so difficult? Our ego. Too often we pretend to be listening while our mind is racing, trying to think of something to say. The urge to interrupt and get in a word is powerful. We seem to want to hear ourselves just to confirm and validate our existence. And if our partner allows us to speak, instead of ending after making our point, we continue to speak for our own satisfaction. Not wanting to give up the pleasure of speaking, we then seek to control the conversation by spewing out endless chatter.

So, how should we listen? First, dump your ego. Leave it outside the door. Look at your partner and focus on what is being said. Ask yourself what can be learned and how can both of you benefit from this conversation.

Next, be aware of your own opinions, experiences, and attitude. That is, are you listening objectively, or are you coloring what is being said with your own interpretation? To prevent yourself from distorting the facts and misunderstanding your partner, regularly stop the conversation and verify whether your understanding is correct. To confirm, simply state, So, what you are saying is . . . (repeat what you think was said), and what you mean by that is . . . (say what you think they meant).

Also, to get the greatest benefit from the conversation, try to put yourself in the place of the speaker. Attempt to experience their emotions and understand why what theyre saying is significant to them. When this is done, youll be able to enlarge your own experiences and understanding. Moreover, it will also make the speaker more apt to open up. Thus, both parties experience an ever-widening expression of growth. Remember, you cant walk a mile in someone elses shoes until you take off your own, so take them off (set aside your ego). And if you wish to become wise, never stop asking people for their opinion. Is there anything you shouldnt listen to? Of course! Dont listen to gossip and negativity, for you are here to spread good, not ill, will.

© Chuck Gallozzi
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