There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen. -Rumi
I have always had a lot to say. My brain is usually going a hundred miles a minute and I wear my heart on my sleeve, sorry friends, but I tend to overshare. In the past, listening has been something I have struggled with because I couldn’t get out of my own head long enough to just be still. I was always distracted. Rude I know, and I’m not proud of it. I didn’t even realize this until I started focusing on presence, which is/was another hurdle of mine. It’s hard to be present when you are always looking for the next thing. And it’s impossible to listen if you’re not present.
Why does it matter? Well, I don’t know if you’ve ever considered this, I know I didn’t before, but listening is one entire half of communication. Also, can I clarify hearing is NOT listening. Most of us can hear, but it takes practice to LISTEN. I have learned that listening is a skill that like other abilities, takes time and practice to get right. But, if you can become a proficient active listener, your entire life will change. Think of how your relationships, personally and professionally, would shift if other people felt listened to, and more importantly respected. I’m telling you it’s magic.
Yesterday, I stopped in at the post office to send a couple of things for my home-based business. Now, the post office staff knows my face well as I have stopped in weekly and (often multiple times weekly!) for the last few years. I was hoping to make it quick as I had just gotten done with my monthly massage (maintenance guys, do this for yourself!), and my face resembled a crumpled sheet. There was a familiar face at the counter though, and as she worked we made small talk. I told her I was coming from a massage. That opened the door to talk about stress and before I knew it, I was hearing about the worker’s dad passing and how her husband asked for a divorce right after the funeral. She cried and I listened. I left feeling like I had been in the exact right place for both her and I. This is the power of listening.
When we listen, we learn. Not just about the other person, but ourselves. I left the post office feeling grateful. Grateful I could be an ear for someone who needed it, grateful when I went through my divorce I had people who listened to me, and grateful that I have learned so much because of it all. Grateful that I have learned to listen. When we give someone our full attention, we are present, and this practice alone has taught me so much about fulfillment and contentment in life.
Listening also sets you apart. Many people spend their time “listening,” thinking about the next brilliant thing they are going to say to impress the other person or prove their point. We have all been on the other side of this, and you KNOW when someone is absorbed in their own thoughts and neglecting yours. You feel dismissed. When people feel listened to, they feel cared for. Validating others with this gift will create a bond that creates a deeper connection. Obviously, this is amazing for your personal life, but imagine professionally how listening can give you a huge advantage.
Another benefit? Knowledge is power and when we are listening we are gaining so much information. Maybe it’s insight into the other person. Maybe it’s about a new opportunity. Maybe it’s something useful you can refer to down the road. When we listen and stay silent, there is no telling what someone may offer. I have learned so many things during patient appointments that were critical but may not have been voiced had I not simply been silent.
Whether you are an expert listener or realizing you need some practice, know that listening does not mean you don’t get to have an opinion or a say. I know you have a lot of amazing information to share yourself! It just means you are wrapping the other person in respect and presence when they have the floor, and then when it’s your turn, they will be listening that much closer.