Quit acting defensively and start listening!

You may have read about the power of listening a million times. You may even think you do listen. But might you still give listening the brush aside?

Listen to me (photo by keela84)

Here are some positive factors about listening:

  • Listening communicates an open approach, relaxing the speaker;
  • When avidly listening, a speaker is inclined to give more information;
  • To listen is to be in a much stronger position than when speaking;
  • Listening allows you to focus internally on your thoughts, before you blurt out something you wish you hadn’t;
  • Listening engages you to the point where you will begin to see further and start discussing, sharing and understanding, rather than arguing.

Listening is an intensely powerful tool. But there is a problem:

  • To listen is to deal with the opinions of others. To listen is to be told uncomfortable thoughts (and sometimes truths) about yourself. To listen is to experience situations that you may not personally agree with.

While a great many of us have got past the problem of hearing as opposed to listening, far fewer individuals are able to listen and process. All too often, we will listen and discard.

To listen and discard is different to letting talk go in one ear and out the other. Rather, it’s a sense of denial that acts as a defence mechanism. We know there may be an element of accuracy in what another person says, but we don’t want to expose ourselves to weakness.

Unfortunately, this is a weakness in itself.

The Next 45 Years puts this forward well:

“We flee from the truth in vain. Somewhere along the way there are truths about ourselves we never allow to see the light of day. Shame, guilt or embarrassment keeps these truths hidden and locked away. But remember, we cannot change or heal what we do not acknowledge.”

photo by la jul

Truly listen to what people have to say. Put yourself in their shoes. Try to consider where they are coming from and why they may have a different opinion to you.

And if someone disagrees with you, or wants to give you some constructive input, just listen. You don’t need to go further than that. Thank the person for their time and be happy that you have listened.

It’s easy to do this because most conversations are not debates. We just seem to arrange them that way. And even if you do need to fight your corner, your position is greatly improved when you actively listen to another person’s beliefs on the issue. A true listener can understand that person’s point of view and can go on to explain exactly where it falls down and why you have a stronger argument. Taking in the views of others doesn’t result in your downfall; it can only strengthen your outlook.

After listening, it’s fine to have questions. In fact, you might have more questions if you’ve been listening carefully. Go ahead and ask them. Questions don’t cause fuss, so if you want to argue the point, find a valid question instead. Life’s too short for anything else.

When you master listening, you have mastered one of the greatest forms of communication there is. You may have heard that it’s good to talk. Yes it is. But it’s even better to listen…

photo by bjortklingd