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Are you listening?

26 February 2011

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You must have heard of the three ladies in their golden years, and their conversation while hanging out on a park bench on a balmy, breezy afternoon. Martha: “It’s windy!”. Cynthia: “No, it’s Thursday!” Rose: “Me too! Let’s go get a drink!” 

Martha, Cynthia and Rose had a valid reason in their aging ears for not quite understanding one another. But what about those of us whose hearing is working perfectly well? Are we hearing what is being communicated? Are we really, truly listening? 

To truly listen, you need more than working auditory biological equipment. You need to be prepared to hear. You need to be able shut down your interpretation engine, your assumptions appliance, your denial device, and your very own all-important agenda. 

We have an innate urge to categorize what we hear so we can better deal with it. We need to somehow solve any perceived problem we hear. We pick out those meanings that best fit our own experience, wants and needs. 

We will hear that which suit us to hear. When you turn off the busy translation services that stop us from really listening, you will find an incredibly rewarding new world. You will discover the warm wave of gratitude that will be flowing your way from he who feels heard and acknowledged. 

You will stare in amazement at what you may discover about someone you thought you knew really well. You will feel the freedom that comes from listening without worrying about how it may affect you, or what you might have to respond with. 

For once, it is not about you. Listening is not about you. So when you go home today, or return to the office after the weekend, practice really listening. Really, truly listening without the comfort of your friendly, busy, ever-protective inner translators.

Turn off the automatic pilot. Ask your child about his day, and listen to the unspoken words. Hear the excitement, the frustration, the joy of being a kid. Call someone who loves you, and let her be the focus. Hear the sounds of her world without coming up with a matching anecdote. 

Listen to that funny colleague’s jokes. Hear the underlying exhaustion of constantly having to use humour to overcome acute shyness. In his acceptance speech, Barack Obama famously said: “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree”. 

It is as difficult as it is powerful. Learn to listen. In this day and age of the split-second attention span, it is one the best gifts you could give yourself and those who matter to you.

 Courtesy of Naima - http://thirdcultureunleashed.com/

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