Second week of January then. How’s it going?
Amid the welter of new year diets, gym membership offers and turmeric de-tox regimes, I have a radical suggestion for you. I believe that we can all achieve significant well-being improvement by exercising our ears.
Yes, Ladies and gentlemen, I suggest that we dedicate 2018 to cultivating the gentle art of Listening!
There are 3 immediate benefits that spring to mind.
Firstly, if we focus on listening to what’s being said, we leave go of the need to “do” immediately. This creates a bit of space for us to breathe. If like me you are inclined to charge from one activity to another, this space brings clarity and calm. Giving ourselves permission to listen without immediately reacting to what has been said (unless what has been said is “Your socks are on fire!”) is a mind-expanding discipline.
Secondly if we focus on listening to what’s being said, we turn off the “tapes” that automatically play in our head. Too often we “hear” only what we expect to hear because our brain interprets based on whatever we thought the speaker said last time, or the opinion we believe them to have of us, or what someone else (who we think is a bit like them) may have said at another time. These automatic interpretations have a significant impact on communication and, especially, communication during conflict. If we focus on what is actually being said and ask questions to clarify what the speaker means, then we suspend the “tapes” and live in the here and now.
Thirdly, if we focus on listening to what’s being said, without judgement and without agenda, we give a great gift to the speaker. Being listened to and feeling heard is a fundamental human need. We feel valued, we feel supported, we feel that we have worth. Even if the listener takes issue with what we have said. If we feel they have truly listened, we are better placed to have a conversation about it rather than a fight.
What about it then? Exercise your ears this year and see what a difference it makes to you.