"People don`t listen to understand. They listen to reply. The collective monologue is everyone talking and no one listening." - Stephen R. Covey
One friend recently told me that she appreciated I was listening to her while she told me about a hard time she currently was going through. While I love listening to other people`s stories and believe that sometimes clearing can help and give the other person to feel heard, I know from my Coaching training that listening is a real skill, that can even go deeper, richer, and wiser. I invite you to learn more about listening to not only help others more effectively, but also to transform your own life, by learning to listen to yourself.
Observation 1: There are people who like to talk and/or bring the conversation back to their own experiences - often unconsciously.
Do you know one of those catch-ups with your friend, when you ask each other how you are feeling? Once you finished, you ask your friend how she was doing. And if she could not wait any longer, she started to talk a mile a minute (like a "waterfall") and sharing everything that was heavy on her heart (and probably kept her mind busy while I was talking). I have noticed this behavior many times, without judging, but more as an observation that we seem to crave for someone to whom we can just open up and share what is going on with us. The challenge as well as magic is if both parties are able to share AND listen. Often only one part is being done - either we listen with all compassion and love, but then struggle to share with others out of fear that it would be too much. Or we share our whole story, while we fail to give back by listening intently (and often people think they can listen).
Observation 2: When people share, people often - consciously or unconsciously - have expectations on others` reactions.
While this observation may seem to not be directly linked to listening, the fact that we share with expectations shows that there is room for mindfulness. Now, everyone, including me, is doing this, sharing something and expecting / wishing / preparing for others` reactions, whether positive or negative. But if you do it excessively and without noticing, then it also means that you are constantly in your own head rather than with the other person. If you share something from your side, you also need to be with the other person, building the connection and allowing the person to listen and support you in their unique way. Also, if you are aware of this mind activity, you will likely be able to address the next observation, which is a real impediment of our listening skills and, thus, preventing us from establishing real nourishing and meaningful relationships.
Observation 3: When people listen, they already think what and how to reply - maybe it even triggers something in us, so we share something from our own lives breaking the listening cycle.
This behavior is very common and, in my view, is a result of many factors in today`s world. We live in a society where it is expected to always have an answer, to react (on autopilot), to use every time and situation as effectively as possible. Our lifestyle of doing and busyness has led us to feel uncomfortable and disconnected when there is a time of calmness and nothing. Thus, in a conversation, often people feel awkward when there is suddenly silence. Then often more thoughts are coming in wondering whether the relationship is not working or what the other person may now think of us if we let silence happen. We seem to not know how to deal with uncertainty, stillness, nothingness.
The other factor seems to be a belief that we need to have answers and share pieces of advice, whether we have been asked or not. It may be that someone has shared a difficulty in their life, and because we don`t know how to react, we often say something like "oh, you know, you could do this ..." or "oh, you know, when it happened to me I was doing this ...", leaving the person likely more isolated and disconnected. This behavior also shows that we are uncomfortable and uncertain with pain (for good reasons) and want to make it go away - without making a pause to look for any wisdoms or meanings. We also act as we need to fix a person or problem, but sometimes, the only thing that may just be needed is the feeling of love and belief that this person can do it.
So what does this mean and how can we change all of our seemingly conditioned behavior to improve our relationships? As always, we need to work on ourselves and craft our skills. This means to first learn to listen to ourselves, incl. listening to our needs, listening to our intuition, listening to our emotions. We need to learn how to process difficulties and uncertainties (with help if needed). It also means to learn being mindful when we are with another person - noticing our thoughts and impulses to react and tell something wise from our own life. Rather than always reacting to this impulse in the first moment, follow your curiosity (if you have any, if not, then you can be curious on why this is the case) and ask more questions on what your friend is feeling, noticing, needing. You will see that you both will learn a lot from each other and bring your relationship to the next level. Curiosity is the enabler here.
Listening to ourselves also means unconditional self-love. It could be that even if we practice our skills, the other person may still not be the listener we need (remember our behavior has been repeated and conditioned for a long time), so we may feel unsatisfied, hurt, disappointed, or resentful. What you give to others (with your listening), give it also to yourself. You can also state mindfully "dear friend, I am sorry, my own tank is currently not full and I follow my responsibility here to take time for myself" or "I am noticing something in me, and rather reacting now and potentially hurting you, let me just take a moment for myself and get back to you later". If your friend is retaliating and does not understand your responsibility for self-care (it did happen to me once), then they may not be the friends, who truly understand you and want you to be happy. In every moment, there are so many possibilities that you can choose for your wellbeing. Enjoy practicing listening - to yourself and others - and see how it can improve your relationships and life.
How well do you listen to others and yourself? Let me know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org – I would very look forward to hearing from you! :) PS: Subscribe to my Newsletter to stay in touch for upcoming posts and news :)
This week`s ...
Inspiration: Glennon Doyle - Untamed
Reflection: How well do I listen to others?
Intention: I take time for myself, to check on my needs and intentions, before I give to others.