"One advantage of talking to yourself is that you know at least somebody’s listening."
— Franklin P. Jones
How often have you felt like this? That there is no one in your life, even your nearest and dearest who actually listens to you. They may be physically present but not really engaged. It happens to me far more often than I like to admit and it’s not because the people I know, love and respect don’t love and respect me back. It’s because we take listening for granted and forget how life affirming it is to give that gift of undivided attention to another human being.
It was a simple exercise we put everyone in pairs and asked each person to give their partner three minutes silent attention while they listen to a personal story selected by their partner for this purpose.
At the end of three minutes each person recorded how it felt to be listened to or to do the listening.
Here are some of the recorded reflections:
About being listened to:
“Being listened to without interruption made me feel I could say more”;
“At first it felt awkward because I usually worry about being boring but my partner looked like he was engaging with what I was telling him and that felt nice. “
“I make my living from engaging in conversation with people, but usually I have an agenda and drive the conversation by asking questions. This often means interrupting the flow of some one’s thoughts or their ‘story’. I suddenly realise that I am also like this when I am not at work. And that can’t be good, right, when someone wants to talk and I am peppering them with questions?”
"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."
— Winston Churchill
Think about the act of listening the next time your children, partner, friend, colleague says they need to talk. Are you really, really listening, giving them the gift of undivided, attention? Put away the mobile phone, sit still, make eye contact, look, smile, nod, but do not interrupt. Truly listen until they become silent. The experience may just be life changing.