When you don't know what you don't knowRecently I have been speaking with a very close friend about many skills that we need to develop if we want to grow as a person and specifically in a relationship with another person. One of those vital skills was listening skills. Being a better listener is a vital skill for both personal and professional development. The person I was speaking with asked me how I became a better listener, what did I do to develop that particular skill.
Recently we had both seen a post on face book that said "Listen to hear not to respond" and this statement resonated with both of us. On reflection it was resonating with both of us for the opposite reason, I was internally wanting him to listen and he was wanting to listen more deeply. Often when we have conversations that were about emotional topics we fell into the trap of interrupting each other, this was not conducive to what we were attempting to achieve.
Heartfelt understanding and empathy for the other persons views of particular situations.
He had asked me what books I have read that helped to develop listening skills. I sat for a moment and thought about this question and realised that it was not that I learned to listen through reading a book or practicing listening skills (I do have to practice this at times) but it was actually becoming more conscious of myself and of the person I am engaging with. To be honest it was more about being totally present for the person you are engaged with as they speak. Being more conscious of myself when I go into a state of responding opposed to deeply listening and hearing what the person is saying.
As I reflected more deeply on this I realised that listening to respond can also be about being right not present and feeling defensive, therefore you have the need to respond. For me I tend to get in a state of responding because my brain is going so fast and I need to say something before we move on, we that used to be as now I realise it can also be the ego and its definitely when you are in a state of self, making things about you not about listening to understand at a deeper level.
On the journey of self awarenessSelf awareness is a never ending journey and certainly one you get better at with consistent practice and a desire to be present for those you engage with. Awareness of self can be the difference between getting in to a negative state and being so plugged in its detrimental to yourself and those around you or having an awareness of how you are feeling and taking steps to ask some very key questions that can change the situation for the better (Angry, joyful, Sad, guilty, resentful, scared). When we are feeling some of those negative feelings our self awareness can lead us to ask questions of our self.
What am I really feeling at this time?
Why am I feeling ........ about the situation?
Raising your level of consciousnessRaise your level of consciousness is actually really easy to do, here are some of the ways in which you can get started.
- Keep a journal, spend 10 minutes at the end of the day and write about good things that happened that you can be grateful for and also reflect on what was not so great and what you may be able to differently should that situation occur again. It could be that you don't put yourself in that situation again or could be you approach it differently.
- When you get an uneasy feeling in your stomach , ask yourself a few questions, "why do I feel this way" "is this as big a deal as I am seeing right now" Am I trying to be right is this my ego at work or do I feel passionate about this.
- Accept that we don't always get it right, we are all human and its important we don't aim for perfection as this doesn't exist. Reflection and Correction is the key.
- Remove labels as much as possible, its important not to get stuck on right and wrong, good and bad. Accept it is and change what you can, let go of what you can not change.
One of the best tools you can give yourself is the ability to reflect on a situation or situations, sit in the discomfort only long enough to correct in the future. If you need to (if possible) apologise if you feel you need to as this assist in forgiveness. Forgive yourself and then do a better job of listening or communicating next time.
The more we practice being conscious the more natural it will become. Go forth with heartfelt understanding and the willingness to listen actively without interrupting. The practice can be truly magical for all kinds of relationships.