"Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That's the problem".
I learnt a powerful lesson a few days ago. My husband and I were having a discussion which slowly turned into a disagreement, which then escalated into an argument and a cold war ensued. (I’m sure this is familiar to many of you!)
He offered solutions which made me feel I wasn’t being heard and that got me really angry and we both went down the spiral of self-righteous indignation! Instead of reaching a solution we both ended up feeling worse.
Some moments later, I smartened up and realized that most of the time when we try to make people feel better, we end up arguing with them, because we’re contradicting what they are feeling…which inevitably makes them feel worse.
I realized that listening is not the same as ‘agreeing’ and it doesn’t mean that you need to take a particular action. In fact, especially in times of disagreement we begin to shout louder and louder, hanging fiercely and deafly to our own ideas, instead of listening and becoming quieter and more comprehending.
The most serious result of not listening is boredom. It seals people off from each other more than any other thing. Because in many such situations what people are looking for is proof that you’ve heard them. And when they feel that they’re heard, their need for opposition diminishes.
Until we feel heard we will fight to do so, but once we are heard there is little left to fight for and we can move on, not as ‘us versus them’ but simply as ‘us’.
Listening is magic! Not only does it make both feel better it makes us feel ‘not alone’.
I want to add here that listening isn’t easy. The more we listen to others the more likely we will be able to respond and not over- react to what they say. Listening is much harder than speaking. We have to allow things we might disagree with to hang in the air; we need to move over a little and create space for those things to linger. This kind of listening takes tremendous courage. And if we’re interested in being connected to others, showing them respect, helping them feel better and solving problems between each other, then it’s more than worth it. It’s essential!
I think women have this listening faculty more than men. It isn’t the fault of the men though; they lose it because of their long habit of striving in self-assertion. And the more forceful men are the less they listen as they grow older. This non-listening of able men is one of the saddest things they face because it makes them lonely….the loneliness of old age.
“When people listen, creative waters flow.”
When someone listens to you, you go home rested and light hearted. When we are listened to ideas begin to grow in us. Like when a person laughs at our jokes we become funnier and funnier. It makes people feel happy and free when they are heard. We gravitate to the listeners, those that are the kindest, least censorious, least bossy people we know because by pouring out our problems to them, we will know what to do about it ourselves.
I listened to Richard Branson talk about his work ethic, “Listen: it makes you smarter. It’s a simple statement but all too often over-looked. No one ever learned anything by listening to themselves speak. The only way we can grow is by learning new things from other people. It’s easy to think of listening as a passive activity _ but it takes effort and focus.”
Real listening requires inner relaxation. To listen to ourselves and others means to let go of our own expectations and to allow our attention to move in spontaneous ways in ourselves. It means to drop the habits of mind and feelings that include, for example, thinking that we already know how someone is going to complete a sentence.
A true listener is magnetic. When you really take the time and effort to listen you become more tranquil and begin to hear not only what the other is saying but what they are trying to say and you begin to sense the whole truth. Only then does the magic of communication begin.
Until next time….