The Art of Listening Part 2:
“Every person you meet knows something you don’t.” Bill Nye (The Science Guy)
Ask yourself, how often do you actually listen as opposed to waiting for the other person to finish talking? We are all taught to speak our minds, but the truth is we need to train ourselves to quiet the mind and listen with our hearts, free from judgment and prejudice. Have you ever turned around to a friend, or partner after a party and said, “I listened way too much tonight!”? I’m guessing, no.
There is this great quote, “We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.”― Zeno of Citium. I really do think that’s why we have two ears; because we don’t listen enough – our mouths are so busy talking we need the power of two ears to overcome the chatter. We become better listeners the moment we have the desire to really hear what people have to say.
We were all taught pretty early on in life (well, most of us anyway) to listen to our parents and our teachers. But the truth is, no one really focused on teaching us how to be good listeners.
I’ll let you in on a little secret; if someone confides in you about something that’s going on in their life – a problem or a concern – it’s no coincidence. Every exchange is an opportunity because there is something for both parties to learn, be it with a mentor, friend, colleague, sibling, whomever. When there is so much to be gained from the simple act of listening, it begs the question, why do we struggle to be good listeners? But more importantly, how can we become better listeners?
The next time you are given the opportunity to really listen to someone, consider this: God created innumerable mirrors for each of us that enable us to clearly see what we have to change. Change is the law of life, and kabbalists have said for centuries that transformation is the key to meeting our true potential and fulfillment. All the people we encounter every day are mirrors. Every fault we see in another person is an indication that we have an aspect of that issue within ourselves. Every story we avoid listening to contains a message we need to hear, and an issue that needs to come to our attention, to assist us in our process of growth and change. After all, we are placed on this earth to transform ourselves, and ideally, we should desire to be a better version of ourselves every single day.
We access these messages by truly listening without agenda or judgment. It is easy to judge others and find fault in them; sometimes it’s even enjoyable. If our aim is to draw fulfillment into our lives (who doesn’t want a lot of that?!) judging others is one of the most dangerous things we can do. No one can listen honestly or with an open heart and mind when we are busy judging. In order to free ourselves from these tendencies, we need to let go of our Ego. Letting go of Ego means listening to another completely – even when we don’t agree with what they have to say. It means accepting that someone has a different opinion without turning it into a war of words.
To really listen, we have to actively choose to do so. It will take time and effort, like all things. Passive listening is like a white noise you adjust to, whereas active listening insists you put your ego aside, pushing aside any thoughts of knowing what’s best for whoever is confiding in you, and awakening empathy. When you listen with your heart, without the clutter and noise of your own thoughts and judgment, your advice (if you’ve been asked to give it) will come from the right place – a place without judgment, your own agenda, or viewpoints, and rather one of just love and caring.
Above all else, no matter who you listen to, know that the world is trying to tell you something – can you hear it?
THOUGHT TO ACTION:
To be good at anything requires practice – lots and lots of practice. Take 5 minutes of your day, turn off your phone, remove all distractions, and ask someone how they are. Ask questions, be curious, and really listen to what they have to say. Share your experiences with me in the comment section.