We all have the capacity to listen and, to a certain extent, we think we might be excellent at it.
But listening needs to be practiced like any other skill set.
Especially in today’s world where people are overwhelmed and feel that they are not seen, heard or valued for whom they really are.
First off, let’s distinguish what most of us do while we are listening:
We interrupt the other person while they speak to verify something or insert a comment.
We start to share our own story or seemingly related facts.
We cut them off or start giving advice when it wasn’t asked for.
We might even take the conversation entirely over and all of a sudden it becomes about us and no longer about the other person.
Or worst case scenario, we are on our phone and distracted.
If you’ve been on the receiving end of the above, you probably can relate that it doesn’t feel very fulfilling to share yourself with others this way. At some point, you might even stop participating in the conversation all together!
On the other hand…
When someone gives you their undivided attention, you feel safer to open up and share a bit more freely.
When someone makes eye contact and holds space for you to share, it makes you feel seen.
When we filter out our own mind chatter and only take in the other person’s story, we make them feel valued in what they have to say.
When we hold back our advice and let the person figure out their own journey, we give them permission to listen to themselves, and they can start trusting in themselves instead of others.
When we sit with silence in a conversation, we give the other person space to finish their thoughts.
When we ask thoughtful questions, we demonstrate our excellent listening skills and might even provide some “Aha” moments for the other person.
If we can give the gift of listening and being present, we help cultivate people that trust themselves and their decision-making.
PS: A word of caution for all us sensitive souls. Please pick wisely with whom you share the gift of listening. It is a very powerful gift and some people will take your precious energy away from you with dumping, venting, or plain old gossiping. The key is to step away with the same amount of energy or more after a conversation—not with less!