Do not listen with the intent to reply, but with the intent to understand. —Anonymous
You can listen to your heart.
You can listen to your intuition.
- You can listen to mantras of religion or stories you’ve been told since childhood.
The listening I am referring to is about how we listen to ourselves and others, which all of the above influence. Without sincere listening, communication breaks down, misunderstandings flare, and a sense of dread and loneliness can cause you to feel frustrated or anxious.
To lessen the problems non-listening creates, here are a few ways to develop and enhance your ability to listen.
When you are genuinely listening to another person, find the takeaway. In other words, look to understand what that person is trying to say?
Avoid reading into or interpreting, tease away your own biases.
If what they are saying is ambiguous, murky, or makes no sense to you, simply ask for clarification, or mirror to them what you feel their message is trying to convey.
When you are actively listening, you will likely have questions and hold them until the person is finished.
Often many of us are too eager to spew out our response, wisdom, or opinion that we forget to hear what the other person is saying entirely.
If you find yourself preoccupied with focusing and crafting what you think, you are not listening.
If you realize that your reply has nothing to do with what the other person is saying, you were not paying attention.
Watch professional interviews. You can always spot an interviewer who is not listening by their response, as it will be a left-field response regardless that their statement was right and center.
Naturally, it's easier to listen to people you share common ground with, and it can be challenging to listen to those you don’t.
Let's put this in the realm of relationships. Your partner may have been raised with strict rules, and there was little wiggle room for self-exploration. You, on the other hand, had a family that encourages independent thinking. You and your partner fall in love, but after the honeymoon phase, you are arguing over everything. More than likely, it is a lack of listening to each other...listening without hearing. Whew, that is a tough one.
However, when you begin to practice real listening, you can not only muddle through tough conversations, you may actually begin to see resolutions. When you let down the defenses and say to yourself, this isn’t about me. It is about the other you can learn to listen with love, empathy, and a deeper understanding that leads to connection.
Spiritual leader Ram Dass has a plethora of quotes that remind us that listening requires going beyond our ego. “We are fascinated by the words, but where we meet is in the silence behind them.” It is in the quiet recess of your consciousness that the truth or impact of words reverberates.
Words themselves are simply nouns, verbs, adverbs, tools with which to communicate. Yet somehow, they can cut us deeply or be profoundly motivating. When you think about how people without hearing communicate, it is interesting because they still use language, just not necessarily words. If you have ever traveled to a country where English or your mother tongue is not spoken, you can still communicate through gestures, although the risk of misconstruing someone’s intentions is much higher. The fact is, words are only part of communicating with another.
A huge part of learning to listen to others is listening to yourself. If you are constantly filling your mind and energy with some diversion, you cannot hear your inner thoughts or desires or spiritual guidance. Think about a time that a teacher, a friend, a mentor said something that resonated with you so profoundly it changed your life forever. It was that time you spent meditating or pondering the words or intentions of the person that shared them with you that allowed you to see the truth and significance to them.
If you're struggling in your life and your relationship with active listening, we are here to help with Imago Relationship Workshops and Relationship Therapy. We also have Online Couples Therapy and Online Couples Workshops right now!
Discover more about Imago with our Imago Professional Membership, Imago Professional Facilitators, Imago Professional Training and Imago Educational Webinars.
Connect. Transform. Thrive.
This blog post was written by Mara Fisher, LCSW, MCC.
Mara is a Licensed Psychotherapist and Master Certified Coach. She is also a Certified Imago Therapist and Advanced Imago Therapist.
Mara's career has grown out of a gift of intuition – which she's been aware of since childhood – and a natural inclination for using that gift to help empower others. Guiding and coaching feel as adventurous to her as the way she's lived her life. Born in New York City, Mara took European trips in her youth and has lived in England, France, and New Mexico in the United States.
Mara believes the boldness and confidence she gained through taking risks and expanding boundaries have contributed to her personal and professional successes. She loves seeing the joy in her clients when they find the courage to challenge themselves and transform their lives as well.
Mara has been a perpetual student, always exploring her inner self by learning new skills and techniques that help her to understand herself, other cultures, and what it is that makes us human. She applies that learning in a way that enables her clients to live fully in the present, to face the challenges in their futures, and to live their dreams.
For nearly three decades, Mara has focused on methods that help her clients realize that they already have answers to their questions. Instead of letting them give their power to her because she can often intuit what is going on in their lives, she can help them claim their power and solve their own problems.
Today Mara serves clients all over the globe through telephone and email communications. Her approach with each individual is uniquely shaped by who the person is and by their circumstances and needs. Tools and techniques selected for each client come from the expertise she's built during her career.
Check out Mara's website too!