Are you a good listener?
Many people would say that they are, but in today's busy world, new communication patterns are giving us fewer opportunities to maintain good listening skills.
Good listening requires time, focus, and patience - three things that seem increasingly scarce in modern life.
With constant access to information and entertainment, we can easily blur boundaries between work and play time. As the speed of our lives increases, so does our impatience and our anxiety about managing perceived expectations. We may feel an urgency to stay "plugged-in" so that we can keep up with information, communications, and demands. All of this activity can leave us feeling scattered and stressed.
New technologies allow us to communicate whenever we want. We no longer have to delay gratification waiting for someone to be available. We can transmit what we want to say via text, email, or voicemail without ever looking into someone's eyes, noticing their body language, or engaging in the art of conversation. Let's be honest, "emojis" can't begin to convey the complexity of the non-verbal communication available in a face-to-face encounter!
It is no wonder that psychologists are concerned about what might be getting lost in the process of this one-sided, virtual communication.
Maintaining strong listening skills in a modern context is challenging, but it is worth it. Powerful listening allows us to more fully understand ourselves, others, and the lessons that our lives are teaching us. Powerful listening provides access to wisdom and better relationships with ourselves and others.
Whether you are listening in solitude, to another, or in community, here are four strategies - summarized by the acronym CORE - for listening powerfully:
Connect — Be present. Connect intentionally with the focus of your listening. Be present with yourself, another, the Divine, or your community. Choose to listen with intention. What are you listening for?
Observe — Be open. Pay attention to the information that you are collecting and notice your experience without judgement.
Reflect — Seek understanding. As you pay attention to your experience, reflect on what it teaches you about what is important to you or to the focus of your listening. Pay attention to what resonates with you and allow that to deepen your understanding and compassion.
Explore — Stay curious. Allow yourself to look beneath the surface of your experience. What are the beliefs or assumptions behind the thoughts and emotions you are detecting? What does that reveal to you about your perception or paradigm and those of the people around you? Allow your expanding awareness to nurture your compassion for yourself and others.
Listening is a gift that we give ourselves and others. As Margaret J. Wheatley said: "Listening moves us closer, it helps us become more whole, more healthy, more holy. Not listening creates fragmentation, and fragmentation is the root of all suffering."
What about you? What have you noticed when you listened powerfully or had someone listen powerfully to you? Please share your experiences in the comments below!
(Note: If you'd like to cultivate listening skills in yourself or your community, please inquire about my workshop "The Art of Powerful Listening")