Do me a favor and stop reading right now. Turn your attention away from your computer and listen.
What do you hear?
Is it your own inner voice talking to you and saying, “What a silly thing for Sean to ask me to do?”
What do you hear?
Is it the birds chirping outside? Is it the sound of the lake water hitting the edge of the shore? Is it a hawk screeching in the sky? Is it the wind blowing through the trees? Is it a conversation going on in the other room? When you take the time to listen what do you hear? Are you interested in what you are hearing? Do the sounds hold your attention or do you find yourself drifting off to thoughts of your own?
Listening, really listening, is something that seems to be quite a rare commodity these days. Perhaps this is why people are so attracted to those people who have learned The Art of Listening.
“The golden rule of friendship is to listen to others as you would have them listen to you.”
People who are really listening to what they are hearing usually are very interested in what is being said and have a desire to learn more about the person with whom they are speaking. That is to say, they value the thoughts and the person. Seems so easy, but I bet if you really think about it and are honest with yourself you will find that you have a tendency to focus conversations and interactions onto yourself versus listening, engaging, and focusing on what the other person is saying. You may even find yourself continuing to read a book or immersing yourself in a project, ignoring that which is going on around you.
Just the other night during a nice dinner with some friends, the power of listening came to light. During the evening how the power of not listening became abundantly clear as well.
As we were sitting around the dinner table, whenever one of the guests would start talking about something, another guest would break in and start talking about himself, sharing about how he had a similar experience, only it was different. As the first person that was sharing would resume his story, he would only get four or five words out before being interrupted again. This went on a good portion of the evening. At one point I broke in and asked the person who was continually interrupting to please hold back so that we could allow the first person to finish his thought. Has this ever happened to you?
When you are not listening to what others are saying, except to find a way to get your own thoughts, ideas, and experiences across, you are devaluing that person and as a result you are pushing them away. When you are focused on listening to your inner voice you are not really listening to what is being said in the moment. Have you ever wondered why more people are not interested in what you have to say or what it is you are involved in? I bet it has something to do with you not listening attentively and instead just talking about you.
“Sainthood emerges when you can listen to someone’s tale of woe and not respond with a description of your own.”
–Andrew V. Mason, MD–
On the flip side if you want to attract, motivate, and excite people start listening really hard to what people are saying. Be in the moment and focus your attention on what is being said and the meaning of the discussion that is taking place. Try to find the opportunity to further explore what makes the person tick that is sharing. When you are able to do this you will have started to learn the Art of Listening.
People like to be heard. They like to know that you value their thoughts and feelings. Nothing says you value people more than when you really listen to them. Sounds so darn easy doesn’t it? Guess what? It is not so easy.
Listening requires that you talk less and listen more. Most people are too busy trying to talk about something that is really nothing than to focus on saying things of importance. When you learn to listen, your words have greater value, because they are thought through and it is not just a case of diarrhea of the mouth. I have written about this topic before and will in all likelihood write about it again. We have two ears and one mouth; use them accordingly.
It has taken me the entire 41 years of my life to really start to catch on to the Art of Listening. As I get older and wiser, hopefully, I am starting to learn the power of listening and paying attention to other people’s needs, emotions, and values beyond those of my own.
Think about how different the world would be if we just listened to what others are thinking and feeling about any given global situation. I would bet that if we could really listen to the rest of the world we would find ourselves in a much better place than where we are today, all because we would listen instead of trying to get our point across at the expense really hearing what others are trying to say.
When you are able to listen, and I mean really listen, you will grow new and powerful friendships. You will become someone people want to be around. You will become a person who attracts people like a human magnet. You will be able to make more meaningful responses as you relate to your family, to the people in your workplace, and to your community because you will have really heard and taken in what people are saying to you. When you learn to listen you will become a more dynamic and creative person in the process.
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would have preferred to talk.”
Like everything else, all it takes is a sincere dedication and lots of practice to hone your listening skills. Go ahead and give it a try tomorrow when you are starting your day. Say to yourself, “I am going to listen more than I am going to talk today.” Pick your words carefully after listening and see how your relationships change. See how people respond to your new listening skills. You can do it!