Our Wholehearted Attention Is Our Greatest Gift
Perhaps one of the most precious and powerful gifts we give another person is to really listen to them with quiet, fascinated attention and our whole being; fully present. Deep listening occurs at the heart level, and we must ask ourselves how often we listen to each other so completely. Such listening is a creative force. We expand, ideas come to life and grow and we remember who we are. It brings forth our inner spirit, intelligence, or true self, and opens up the space for us to thrive.
Sometimes we have to do a lot of listening before another’s inner being feels replenished. Some people just need to talk and go on and on, usually in a superficial, nervous manner. This often happens because they have not been truly listened to. Patience is required to be a listening presence for such a person long enough that they get to their center point of tranquility and peace. The results of such listening are extraordinary. Some would call them miracles.
Listening well takes time, skill and a readiness to slow down to afford time for reflection and to let go of expectations, judgments, boredom, self-assertiveness and defensiveness. When two people listen deeply to one another, we sense that we are present not only to each other, but also to something beyond our individual selves; something spiritual, holy or sacred.
Once we experience the depth of being listened to like this, we naturally begin to listen to be present with another. We notice what occurs when we interrupt someone and when we don’t. We watch what unfolds when another stops speaking and we ask, “Is there anything else?”
Listening is an art that calls for practice. Imagine if we all spent just a few minutes each day choosing to practice the art of listening; of being fully present with the person we are with. Being truly listened to and understood yields a sigh of contentment and joy.
Kay Lindahl, of Long Beach, CA, is the author of The Sacred Art of Listening, from which this was adapted with permission from SkyLight Paths Publishing.
Effective Listening Practices
by Kay Lindahl
Pay attention to the environment. Stop other activities to listen. Clear your desk. Turn off background noise or move to a quiet corner.
Be present. Listen with an open, appreciative and curious mind rather than evaluating what’s being said. Put your own agenda aside.
Stop talking. One person speaks at a time without interruption.
Listen for understanding. No one is required to agree with or believe what they hear. Let empathy and compassion take the lead; put yourself in their shoes.
Ask for clarification. It can help a listener understand what’s being expressed.
Pause before speaking. Allow the speaker to complete their thought, and then wait a few seconds before responding. Also ask, “Is there anything else?” There almost always is.
Listen to yourself. Inquire of your inner voice, “What wants to be expressed next?”
Signal that they’ve been heard. Encouraging body language includes empathetic facial expressions, nodding and sympathetic postures.
Adapted from The Top Ten Powerful Listening Practices on the author’s website SacredListening.com.