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The Power of Deep Listening
How to Truly Hear from the Heart
People are all very different in how they view the world, how they communicate and how they process emotions. Some are introverted and take a long time to process things. Some are more extroverted and tend to think. Some are very private about emotions and use humour to process the world. There are a surprising number of things that get in the way of good listening; sometimes there are too many distractions.
Listening takes a lot of practice. Even though we develop our ability to hear for a young age, genuine empathic listening is a skill that takes much longer to develop; even when we've worked hard to develop it, we often mess it up.
Not only does listening take a lot of practice, it takes a lot of vigilance and intentionality to stay in it. Sometimes you be in deep listening mode and suddenly, something will distract you or trigger you and you will have to work hard to stay present for the person in front of you. You can't always identify what it was that pulled you away – it can be a body sensation, an emotional response, or your own ego. Each time something like that happens, you must bring my attention back to the person in front of me.
1.Genuine listening can't be faked. While there may be outward signals that someone is listening like eye contact, bodily engagement and good questions, there was no agreement about which signals were most valuable and there was lots of indication that people need to have a genuine felt sense that the person listening is fully present.
2.Culture and context matter. Some cultures, for example, don't value eye contact, and some contexts require a more nuanced form of listening that may mean no eye contact and/or no questions.
3.When we, as listeners, interject too much of ourselves in the act of listening like questions, interruptions, and too much body language, we can pull the person away from the depth and openheartedness of their own story.
4.Genuine listening involves stilling your body and mind so that you can be fully present. We are usually perceptive to the body signals that a person is genuinely engaged with us.
5.The behaviour of the person speaking strongly impacts our ability to listen to them.
6.Both speaker and listener must be engaged and willing to be openhearted for it to work. Genuine listening is a two-way street and it can't happen when one or the other is checked out, distracted or not being honest with themselves. If the speaker is closed off or defensive, it shuts down the ability to listen. If the listener is closed off, it shuts down the speaker's willingness to be vulnerable.
7.Genuine listening requires self-awareness and good self-care. When we have done our own healing work, paid attention to our own triggers, and taken time to listen to ourselves first, we are in a much better position to listen to others.
The Circle Way
The three practices of circle are:
1.To speak with intention: noting what has relevance to the conversation in the moment.
2.To listen with attention: respectful of the learning process for all members of the group.
3.To tend the wellbeing of the circle: remaining aware of the impact of our contributions.
Gathering in the circle way means that we slow conversation down and give more intentional space to both speaking and listening. Nobody redirects what you're saying by interjecting their own questions, nobody diminishes your wisdom by interjecting their answers to your problems, and everybody is trusted to own their own story and look after the circle by not taking up too much space or time. It can take a lot of practice but once you get used to the paradigm shift, it's quite transformational.
Four Levels of Listening
1.Downloading: the listener hears ideas, and these merely reconfirm what the listener already knows.
2.Factual listening: the listener tries to listen to the facts even if those facts contradict their own theories or ideas.
3.Empathic listening: the listener is willing to see reality from the perspective of the other and sense the other's circumstances.
4.Generative listening: the listener forms a space of deep attention that allows an emerging future to 'land' or manifest.
Listening becomes increasingly more difficult as we move down these four levels, because each level invites us into a deeper level of risk, vulnerability and openness. If you want to be a better listener, start by listening to yourself.
Original Text By: Heather Plett
Modified Text By: Latchman Narain