Listening as a practice is about self-awareness. It’s about letting go of the need to respond and settling into a deep silence that is aware and receptive. It’s about curiosity. Listening is an active practice that connects us with a person’s essence and expands our perception of the world.
“Listening is not understanding the words of the question asked, listening is understanding why the question was asked in the first place.”
~ Simon Sinek
Listening, sometimes called Deep Listening or Active Listening, is an essential practice for anyone wanting a deeper experience of themselves in relationship with others. It’s for those wanting to better understand the needs of the people around them. Active listening encourages others to share, speak openly and take a chance on being fully seen. When we practice active listening, we cultivate deeper levels of care, compassion and kindness in ourselves that can then expand to others. Listening is on the Top 10 LTP Foundational Practices.
- Less than 2 percent of people have had any formal education on how to listen.
- We listen to people at a rate of 125-250 words per minute, but think at 1,000-3,000 words per minute.
- Some studies indicate that we may be listening at only a 25 percent comprehension rate.
- Research shows that we are distracted, preoccupied or forgetful 75% of the time.
- We remember approximately 20% of what we hear.
- Being listened to is the difference between feeling accepted and feeling isolated
How To Start Practicing
Be Mindful – the practice of meditation helps us build our focus and our acceptance of any given moment. It is a practice of stillness that allows whatever is present to be there without judgment or a need for it to be different. When actively or deeply listening to another, see if you can focus you body and mind so that the speaker is encouraged to share themselves so they feel your complete presence. Mindful listening requires us to sit with our lack of patience or with our judgments and stay committed to fully hearing and experiencing another person. Practice mindfulness and watch your expansion into the intimate space of connection.
Practice Compassion – notice the feelings that arise as you are fully present with another. Feel into the part of you that wants to help or relieve their suffering. Recognize the pieces of the other person that are similar to you, and notice how connected we are to one another. Think of deep listening as a service, a gift. It is something we offer others as a way for them to step more fully into their wholeness. Reflect on how you like to be listened to and offer that same care and attention to others.
Be Curious – arrive in any conversation with a beginner’s mind. What if you don’t know the outcome to the story? What if you really don’t know the person in front of you. Allow yourself to be surprised. Connecting to another through curiosity can be uplifting and inspiring. Not knowing or needing to know the answer or the outcome of the conversation can be liberating, and lead both participant’s in new, unexpected directions.
Be Empathic – when listening imagine yourself standing in the shoes of the person who is speaking. Without distracting yourself too much, try to imagine what it is like to be the other person. That height, weight, age, with the exact set of life circumstances. Take note of all of the things you know about this person, but especially, the things you do not or cannot know about the them. Listen from a space of a beginner’s mind with a curiosity and a desire to know and understand this person, without needing to offer advice or share your own story.
Practice Non-Judgment – what would it be like to listen without judgment? What would it be like to not agree or disagree with what is being said? To feel the sensations as they arise in your body and just experience them without needing to react? This is the practice of non-judgment. You can practice in a variety of ways. Try it the next time someone calls you or stops you in the office. Try it at a meeting or while reviewing your Facebook feed. Notice what you experience in your inner world without needing to change it or without needing to change the other person.