Is it just me, or is communicating super difficult? Listening to others is just as important as listening to yourself. Our inner being longs to understand and be understood, to connect with others. Words can be powerful, but a still tongue and open ears can be just as important.
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” James 1:19
The practice of deep listening is similar to the previously discussed sensation walking in that it starts off as passive observation then moves to action and reflection.
First, find an active public space. A mall is a perfect example. Spend the first few minutes emptying yourself of all distractions. Sit or stand in a comfortable position. Let your muscles relax. Make the space your own: adjust the chair, put your feet up, get a hot beverage.
If you’re like me, it’s uncomfortable just being in an open public place with lots of eyes around. Let those negative self-conscious feelings pass away. Accept that you are present and a part of this setting.
Be aware of the space around you and yourself in it.
Close your eyes and clear everything from your mind. Don’t have any expectations or goals, just let what is around you approach you without judging it.
First be aware of motion and movement around you. Is there wind? Rustling? Footsteps?
Then, be aware of the variety of voices (both human and natural): their tone, pitch, pace, rhythm. Listen to words as those words become sentences and merge with other voices to become dialogues. If it helps you focus, jot down the words and dialogues you hear.
Then, extend your observation to your vision. Watch people’s motions and postures. Take it all in without judging.
Meditate on the complexities of speech, centering on the similarities between people.
As you finish, move yourself into the mass of people, greeting those around you with a smile, wave, or word.
If possible, start a dialogue with someone and practice listening as you were before, engaged and focused without judgement as the person talks. Let your focus be on their narrative, focused on them rather than yourself. What is their body language saying? Does it match their words? Their tone? Do you understand what they are truly saying? How can you bring yourself to understand them? Don’t think about how to convince them of something you believe or how to fix their problem. There is time for that later. For now, just listen and let them know that they are heard.
Be aware of your own posture, your eyes, your tone and words and what all of that is saying to the other person. Does it say that you are listening? That you believe this person is worth listening to? Does eye contact make them uncomfortable? Is it appropriate to take their hand or pat their shoulder?
“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” ~Jesus
The simple interaction of being listened to can be immensely powerful for people. What if we all took just a few moments each day to truly listen to others? Perhaps we would have less conflict? Perhaps we would have fewer people who feel worthless, insignificant, and hopeless?
Deep listening is a skill that must be practiced often and honed. It requires focus and a wider awareness. It requires one to be still, yet reflective. It builds empathy and patience and understanding.
When you take the time to listen deeply, you not only hear their words, but you learn to hear what their inner voice is crying out–that voice that longs to be understood and connected to others. When you understand how others communicate, you can better understand what they need and what you need to do for your inner voice to reach them. Most of the time, people just want to be heard and acknowledged.