The Art of Listening

Listening is rapidly becoming a lost art. Arguably more important than speaking, the ability to authentically listen is a vital skill and an even more vital practice. 

In order to perfect a skill, one must practice. How often each day do you practice listening? So many ways to do this. One can listen to sounds, music, breath, silence, the wisdom of the self, the heart, listen to a Higher Power, and perhaps hardest of all…listen to one another.

This skill is declining as we have too much to listen to…so much noise. We are inundated with information, our awareness becomes soggy,  incapable of soaking in anymore. 

Recently I have been frustrated by the soggy listening skills of others. Even in the so-called professional world people who are given power to advance your needs, like say, a banker, or insurance broker. Many of these individuals who control your destiny lack the ability to listen. They might be driving while you are talking to them, you relay important information and they say yes they’ve got that, only to get back home and forget. Sending you a follow up email asking you the same questions and you find yourself typing the same information. Then they might lose your email in their over-stuffed inbox and ask you again. Both of you wasting time and energy because good listening skills were not employed. 

It’s frustrating. 

Then there is listening to another with all your heart and attention. Present moment listening. Also hard as our minds prefer to listen to our own inner prattle rather than to the story of another. 

Yesterday I went to a grad party, seeing a woman I had not seen in four years, we remembered each other and embraced. She a bit older than me had lost her husband quite suddenly just prior to the Pandemic. She has been isolated and alone since. Cut off from friends, family, community, she immediately told me how hard it’s been. Then for the next twenty minutes or so she talked and I listened. I looked in her eyes, I heard her story, her pain. I asked some questions, I gave some compassionate feedback, I heard her. Not all of the twenty minutes was interesting but much of it was. Because it was real. It was her heart and being heard was healing for her. When I left the party she came over and gave me a big hug. That felt nice, but what struck me was her story was the most impactful conversation I had during the time I was there. Because of its vulnerability, and because I practiced listening. 

This is not always easy. It would have been much easier for me to have created an excuse and walked away from her story, but if I had I would have missed the opportunity for real human connection. That tiny moment where I held someone else’s needs over my own, staying present, listening. There have been many times in my life where someone has done this for me and it feels good, to be heard, to be seen, to be listened too.

Challenge yourself to practice the art of listening. Maybe start with yourself; sit in silence and listen to the wisdom of your heart, your soul. Listen to others in present moment awareness, read and re-read emails and texts, take notes, ask questions, listen. 

The art of listening does not need to be lost. For if it is we will lose ourselves and one another. Practice this skill everyday because there is a lot to be heard.