I’m sure you’ve heard many times how significant listening is in communicating with others. In spite of all we know, we often lack good listening skills, struggling with our own overwhelming need to be heard. I admit that I experience this problem almost daily, although I’m working on becoming a better listener as a result of a book I’m currently reading. This book, The Art of Communicating, was written by Zen master and Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. In it, he speaks of something called “deep listening” as one of the key components of successful human communication.
So what is “deep listening” and how does it differ from the kind of listening (or non-listening) we normally find ourselves doing? At its very heart, deep listening requires “mindfulness of compassion” for the speaker. Nhat Hanh says that our purpose must be to reduce his or her suffering by paying close attention to what is being said, refraining from interrupting, and exercising a non-judgmental approach. This sounds really difficult to me! Yet, such is necessary for true understanding, paving the way to a more loving and sincere relationship between speaker and listener. It’s also something that, undoubtedly, takes focused effort and training.
Assuming you’re willing to attempt to put all this into practice, first take a moment to honestly answer a few important questions. How many times do you listen to someone with the intent of helping them feel a sense of ease? When you listen, do you try to really hear where the other person’s words are coming from – do you pay attention to their heart and not merely their words? Do you also try to withhold opinion, correction, or reproof as you listen? These are fundamental considerations if we want to improve our connections to the world around us.
I challenge you today to spend more time really listening to others and less time talking. Since we were given two ears and only one mouth, we should be listening twice as much as speaking! Being mindful of your verbal interactions with others, pause in your day and make a deliberate attempt to listen deeply. You’ll probably learn something new about the other person, and you might even learn something about yourself. Most importantly, when you listen to someone in this way, you will have made them feel important, special, and loved – something we all need from each other.