It’s hard to listen. The voice in our own heads demands our constant attention. We have our points of view; and of course, they are well thought out positions of fact. But I have found that the best way to engage in a tough discussion is to listen.
Listening involves more than remaining silent. To really listen successfully, you have to be fully invested in understanding the other person. You have to listen with an open heart and mind; without condescending facial expressions, and without forming a conclusion. There can be no goal, and no ulterior motive, at the end of listening. Listening is an end in itself, and a reward. We get amazing insight and information about people from listening.
It’s so darn hard to do because you have to put your ego aside to listen. Listening cannot be a smokescreen for waiting until your opponent stops talking so that you can move in to prove your point. If we can ask questions of our disputants after they’ve finished speaking, and have them clarify points that they made, it really demonstrates that we were listening and interested in what they were saying. It’s rare that the listener can put their agendas aside enough to fix on another person’s feelings and want to know more about them. There’s a fear that our side of the dispute will be forgotten or diminished if we listen. I disagree. Listening is such a considerate thing to do – without judgment, without facial expressions, without the tape of what you’re going to say running in your head – that you’ve just scored big time as the listener.
When you listen, I guarantee that a whole new world of understanding of that person will open up for you. When we allow people to talk uninterrupted, people will tell us more than we would expect. Having the space and time to collect our thoughts, to be able to listen to the sounds of our own voices when we’re the speakers, is rare. That respectful silence that we’re given sets us up to listen to ourselves. The silence becomes a mirror of self-reflection that can help to turn our feelings around somewhat and move towards the middle of an agreement, or at least an agreement to respect each other’s positions.
Anyone still listening?