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Listening – So Simple, Right? Maybe Not

When was the last time you had someone listen to what you had to share? 

I mean, really listen. Actively listen without interrupting to share their opinions or advice. 

Was it in the last day or week? Or not any time recently? 

Last month, I (David) was talking on the phone with my mother as I often do. She was telling me a story about a young man she had met. Well, she thought he was much older than he was when she first saw him. He was visibly upset and seemed quite stressed. She asked him if she could help, and he began sharing the details of what was bothering him. He felt under a lot of pressure and was just ready to give up on life. 

My mother listened, just listened with love and attention, no matter what he said. She was careful not to interrupt but let him share what he wanted to. While he was talking, she learned that he was much younger than she had originally thought. But at the end of their time together, he looked more relaxed, less stressed, and ready to go on with his day. 

As they said their goodbyes, the young man warmly thanked my mother for listening, for caring enough to listen to his story, a stranger’s story. He clearly had been touched by this gesture and felt better about going back to his day. And my mother realized that she had helped this person simply by listening. 

So, simple. To listen to another person share what they want to. 

Yet, not so simple. 

Often when we try to listen, our minds wander.  

Maybe we think of advice we want to share as the other person continues to speak.  

Maybe we want to respond with our own thoughts and opinions, and we’re simply waiting until they’re done speaking. 

Or maybe we begin rehearsing in our head what we’ll say in a few moments when the person stops speaking. 

Maybe the content we hear elicits an emotional response in us, and our attention goes to our own feelings about what the other person is saying and our past experiences related to those feelings. 

How easily our mind jumps from here to there, even when we’re trying to listen! 

How easily our own feelings arise and come to the forefront, overpowering our ability to truly listen to the other.

And how hard it is to hold an attentive space – calmly and silently, for a period of time – to truly listen.  

Active listening includes giving the other person your full attention, with focus and presence – holding a space for all that needs to be shared. And even allowing a pause for what’s being shared to live in the space for a moment before responding.  

Not an easy task!  But one worth taking up to cultivate deeper relationships with our loved ones and with ourselves.

Follow these 5 steps to develop your ability to actively listen, holding a space for the speaker to be heard. 

  1. Set an intention to listen actively with your full attention, with an open heart and without judgment. 

  2. Turn off or put away any physical distractions such as your cellphone, computer, TV.  

  3. Notice when you interrupt or want to interrupt.  Offer a space where the other person can share without interruption.  

  4. Be mindful of your mind wandering and bring it back to listening to the other person.  

  5. Thoughts, feelings and body sensations may arise.  Notice them and return your attention to creating a space for the speaker to share.

We encourage you to give this a try for a week and see how the quality of your connections with others changes. You may be surprised! 

If you are interested in exploring your unique gifts within a community of spiritual creatives, check out our upcoming FREE workshop, “From Pressure To Power.”


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