In today’s world, we’re often bombarded with so much information that we tend to tune everything out, including what’s worth listening to.
There are many elements that can get in the way of being a good listener: avoiding eye contact, daydreaming, interrupting, ignoring what we don’t understand, checking texts or emails while listening, being more focused on what we are going to say next. All of these leave the speaker feeling not heard and unappreciated.
To enhance our spiritual practice we can employ active listening where we concentrate on the person speaking, pay attention in order to appreciate another’s point of view, and affirm our understanding. Too often we listen with a focus on our reply.
As Stephen Covey says, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
When we are open and available to listen to what is actually being said, not what we want to hear, we are actively listening and it also increases our ability to be heard. This requires a suspending of our ego and agenda and completely tuning into the other person.
Listening becomes a spiritual practice when we can learn to go within and listen to the quiet voice within us—our intuition and, simply, the silence.
By becoming more still and attuning to the inner wisdom, we can allow ourselves the grace and presence to become a better listener to others and be fully present in a mindful and centered way whenever we are listening to others. When we get caught up in the frenetic pace of the world around us and don’t stop to pause, our attention gets splintered, we lose focus, become more stressed, and are unable to actively listen to another without succumbing to interruption and distraction.
Active and honoring listening happens when we allow ourselves to really be fully present to the person speaking to us.
That means taking a sincere interest in what the other person has to say and engaging in eye contact and responsive body language. Setting our phones down and minimizing distractions allow us to be in this attentive space of good listening. We can further show that we are listening by nodding, smiling, and from time to time, encourage the speaker to continue by asking pertinent questions. Suspending our viewpoints, not criticizing, and not needing to formulate a reply allows us to appreciate what the person is truly saying.
When we provide feedback and reflect the person’s words back to them, we can clarify and affirm our understanding. By paraphrasing what the speaker is saying, we gain greater clarity and insight.
How often do we really put ourselves in the other person’s shoes? It’s important not only to react to the words but to listen to underlying feelings and the ideas behind them. A good listener is comfortable with silence and provides reassuring emphatic comments.
Statements like, “tell me more,” and “what else,” or asking open-ended questions allow the speaker the space to expand and feel heard.
When we truly take the time to have the awareness and intention to listen, we allow people to feel validated and understood. Profound healing and shifts can happen in both the speaker and listener when we invite in the spiritual practice of the art of listening.