There is more to listening than meets the eye, or rather, the ear. Listening is not merely hearing what the other person says, but also comprises understanding what that person says on a deeper level and reacting adequately to it. Many communication failures, hurt feelings and misunderstandings result from the inability to listen properly. Our relationships and dealings with other people will become much more fruitful and fulfilling if we study and learn the art of listening. For listening is an art unto itself. There are several things to bear in mind in order to become a good listener.
1. Never interrupt.
It is considered rude and ill-mannered to butt in while the other person is still speaking. Let him finish what he has to say and then make your remark. Your patience and good manners will be appreciated.
2. Really listen to what is said, rather than just hearing it.
There is a great difference between hearing and listening. In hearing the information goes in one ear and often comes out the other. In listening we allow the words to sink in deeper. In our mind’s eye we try to picture what the other person is telling us. Listening therefore demands concentration and undivided attention. Listening takes some effort, whereas hearing does not.
3. Do not judge.
Try to keep an open mind towards what is being said and keep personal judgements to yourself. Acceptance and tolerance of others’ opinions are not only laudable virtues, but also help the other person feel comfortable and relaxed and give him the chance to speak his mind freely, without being afraid of what you will think of him.
4. Try to understand on a deeper level.
Apart from just receiving the information, story or opinion listening is also all about trying to understand what the other person is trying to communicate emotionally. Perhaps he or she wants to let go of some steam or needs your support or encouragement. Often people are just looking for a sympathetic ear. The true listener will gladly offer it.
5. Silence speaks louder than words.
This is the secret of secrets to fruitful listening. The best listeners are those who listen in silence. Often our mind or ego thinks we have to react with words, but this is not true. Although sometimes words are necessary, often by remaining silent we create the best circumstances for the other speaker to say what he wants to say. Our silence helps the other person by giving him the peace and confidence to tell his story in its most complete way.
Finally, by learning how to listen to others we automatically learn how to listen to ourselves as well. If we practise meditation and dive deep within, we discover an inner voice filled with wisdom which can guide and lead us in our outer life. As spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy explains,
“the inner voice is at once man’s untiring guide and his true friend. If a man goes deep within, the inner voice will tell him what to do. How can we choose the inner voice? To choose the inner voice, we have to meditate early in the morning.” (1)
This post was written by: Abinabha Tangerman.
Abhinabha is a student of Sri Chinmoy, currently living in the Hague, Holland. His interests include meditation, running and acting.