Thursday, February 6, 2014

Deep Listening

I've been thinking a lot recently about the need to be heard.

Everyone wants the same thing- to be able to speak to someone and have their words, ideas, and opinions received and understood by the person to whom they're speaking.

It seems simple enough, but I'd like to point out that these types of exchanges have become more and more uncommon in our society.

Sure, we'll meet a friend for a drink and sit there listening while they drone on and on about their boyfriend problems or the new co-worker they can't stand. But are we really listening? Do we really hear what this person is saying? Or are we sitting there, pretending to give them our attention, while our minds are lost in thought?

I'd argue that more often than not, it's the latter.

I found several fantastic articles online regarding this concept-- in the psychology world, it's referred to as "Deep Listening". Most of these priciples are taught with a Buddhist mindset.

In The Art of Deep Listening, the writer describes the opposite of deep listening as "hasty listening", which is sometimes the only way we were taught to listen. He writes:
"Let’s start with the opposite of deep listening, which I call hasty listening. How often do you find yourself listening to someone else, or even your own thoughts and feelings, only to get to a point of action? You see humans have a voracious appetite for doing. We always need to be doing something. Otherwise, many of us hold the skewed belief that we are passive, not useful, and perhaps even invisible. I’ve seen and been in too many conversations wherein both parties are engaged in hasty listening, meaning the one is only listening to the other so that they can have their turn to be heard. Hasty listening is volatile and reactive. Often we latch onto one word, idea, or tone of voice that doesn’t sit well with us and immediately we must chime in. We must be heard. When we engage in hasty listening, the problem is not that we are not hearing the other person, it’s that we are not hearing ourselves."

In this article, Dr. Tara Brach gives a great example of how the absence of listening caused a rift in a family that was only able to be repaired once the family members learned to truly listen to each other and understand the unspoken motivation behind each other's words.
This article provides a practical approach to changing the way we listen to other people. In it, the author cautions against using the following tactics during a conversation in order to truly hear what someone else is saying:
  • Seeking to look good by asking clever questions, giving impressive facts, recalling times when you did something better and bigger!
  • Giving the other person ideas, suggestions or solutions to the subject that you are discussing. Bear in mind that if you do, then they will be your solutions, not theirs!
  • Attempting to control the conversation in any way.
  • Referring to any of your own experiences or feelings.
It seems like such a simple fix, doesn't it? All these things are common sense ways to truly shift your focus towards listening.

But we've become to accustomed to diverting the conversation back to our own experiences and beliefs that we do so subconsciously.

In the future, I'm going to make a true effort to institute deep listening into my conversations with other people. This is a sure way to not only improve your relationships with others, but to understand the world from a view unlike your own.

It's definitely something worth (deep) thinking about.

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