The Art of Listening
Updated: Jun 27
I needed to add my vocals to a soundtrack recently, at first I tried to sing as the track played and missed cues and timings. Then I decided to just listen to the track … the flow, the arrangement, the timing.... just listening no singing. When I tried again to sing over it , it went almost flawlessly.
Active listening means being attentive to words, view points, mindsets, intentions while building empathy that adds value to the conversation.
My lessons from practicing listening in these areas...
Listening to my children – I practice listening both when they are speaking to me and when they are not. I try to hear what they are saying, why they are saying it and understand the dynamics between what they are saying, their actions and our relationship. In the process I have ‘heard’ things they couldn’t really articulate and its been immensely helpful to understanding their personalities (three boys between the ages of 14 and 18 and wildly different personalities) and building my relationship with them as they grow and change each day.
Listening to nature – Listening while out on a run or walk helps me to pay attention to what’s happening outside me, slow down and take in the beauty of the outdoors. I've built my observation skills listening for birds, the wind, trees, the train sounds, vehicles and naturally occurring patterns and order. I am so much more appreciative and grateful for things that I’d previously taken for granted, the beauty from scenic paths and nature and my lessons from the outdoors. Plus its so relaxing to take that break from everything else.
Listening to my mind, heart and spirit – As we waltz through experiences each day, our hearts and mind process so much (that we are unaware of) behind the scenes. Being intentional about ‘checking in’ to the processed information is super helpful for personal development and decision making. Checking in is time for reflection on what parts of your day were your best, which werent?, what challenged you? What parts were in line with your value system? These check-in’s provide the clarity and answers for when you need to make a decision especially if these happen on a regular basis. [Prov 4:23 “Above all else guard your heart for everything you do flows from it”].
Listening to others – Most times, when we engage in conversation, we already have our preconceived notions, opinions and responses to the discussion at the back of our minds, while listening to the other person. Try listening without thinking of your response or opinion. Just listen to hear, and understand the speaker’s words and intents – you will hear a lot…. Their opinion, their heart, their motivations ..... this will help you build the empathy to provide a much more valuable response and conversation.
My tips for practicing listening
Minimize interruptions - This is super hard but I have been challenging myself on this. Pick a day and make a goal not to interrupt any conversations that day. Just listen to the other person fully until its your turn to speak. If like me, habit makes you interrupt, pull yourself back and apologize. Try it for a day and then extend to two days.
Look at the eyes - Look at people in their eyes when speaking with them, it helps with focus and makes the speaker know they have your attention. Also since body language and facial expressions speak more than words, you hear much more than words being spoken when you look at the eyes when listening.
Be Present – checking your mail, scrolling through your phone, watching the news, etc. are all things we do when engaged in a conversation especially on the phone. How about just having the conversation? The human bran doesn’t really multi-task. It just is able to process a lot of things in sequence at a fast pace so you may think you’re listening while doing other things but what you really are doing is jumping from that other thing back to the conversation and back and forth and back and … you get my drift.
Listen to nature - Take a break each day from your thoughts, plans, worries, activities and just listen to the outdoors. Make a game of your observation skills. Can you identify different bird sounds? Engage your other senses sight, smell etc. Can you tell when its about to rain before the weather changes?
Do a daily 'Check in’ – Take a moment to explore some of the things that your mind has processed during the day. Now is the time to bring them to your awareness. Think back on your day, what did you enjoy? what mistakes did you make? what did you learn? What did you discover about yourself? Just a few minutes each day asking some of these questions will help you ‘hear’ some of the things that are valuable to your decision making and life.
Finally this excerpt below from Glenwood Middle School to our community summarizes my biggest lesson from listening
The only way we can ever hope to understand another’s suffering, or their overcoming of it, is to listen. Not with the hope of bending them to our way of thinking, but with the hope of seeing the world through their eyes, even for a brief moment. Listening is the root of empathy. It's what allows us to share in the thoughts and experiences of a fellow human being without feeling like we have to discount our own. I am challenging every member of our community to seek out someone who you don’t know well, or has a different culture from you and ask them how they are navigating the endless stream of crises we are facing. Then listen, really listen, to their response. Maybe it will be a neighbor you don’t know well, a relative you haven’t spoken to in a while, or even a sibling who drives you crazy. While you will never truly be able to walk in their shoes, you may discover that you have much more in common than you thought.