As part of my retreat facilitator training, we’ve been reading about the art of listening. It’s made me think about how I listen in life. I read a quote by Joan Anderson that said, “We listen not to understand, but to form our response”. Unfortunately, that quote resonates truth to me. I realize that as I listen to other people speak my mind is in full gear thinking about how that comment relates to me ,and what I will say in response. It makes me realize that listening is a skill that you have to develop- like reading and writing. To be able to truly listen to another person and seek to understand their point of view is a gift that you give of yourself. What a wonderful skill to develop in life and in our relationships.
As with many things in life, it is far easier to set a lofty goal than achieve it. I find myself literally sitting on my hands when I am practicing truly listening to another person. I wondered why I was choosing to do this, and then it came to me. When I speak, I gesture with my hands almost constantly (no, I’m not Italian- but maybe I should be!). If I sit on my hands, then I can’t gesture and I am aware of when I am getting ready to speak. So, I sit on my hands-literally and figuratively! I am working on trying to keep my mind occupied with what the other person is saying- rather than what I am going to say back. This is difficult for a lifelong student and teacher who has spent their life constantly in ready mode to respond!
Something magical happens when I’m able to really relax into the art of listening…with no agenda other than trying to understand what the other person is saying. I feel more relaxed without being in “respond mode”, and I notice the other person is more relaxed when they are not interrupted. Not only do I hear more, but more is shared. The act of listening becomes more of an intimate, shared experience instead of just a conversation.
There are times in life when you need to listen quickly and respond in kind…but, I’m learning to savor the moments when I can really listen to understand….