“When another is asked a question, take special care not to interrupt to answer it yourself.” — Plutarch
How often do we ask a question just to express our own opinion on the subject rather than asking out of a sincere desire to know the other’s perspective? Active listening, the process of restating the words of the original speaker actually does more than acknowledge the other’s words, it causes the listener to pay close attention in order to capture the essence of what is heard. In our world of massive input, being bombarded on all sensory levels much of the time, the tendency to feel that our attention needs to be divided is a common one. But to really hear another, not just the words, but the emotions behind them, takes a focused listening technique. It is possible, wordlessly, to communicate to another their value, strictly through the attention given the speaker.
Often we can create unhappiness in our lives simply misunderstanding what has been said. When one seeks to clear the pathways of communication, it is far easier to clarify as the conversation goes on with statements, such as “I am hearing you say…”, “if I understand you correctly…”. The trick is that both parties must be willing to participate in this type of exchange. If the listener mishears, the speaker must be able to restate without becoming defensive, and both parties must be infinitely patient in covering the same ground, in order to have the clearest sense of the intent of the speaker.
When a matter is urgent, rather than a general conversation asking another’s opinion on the local sports team, the request is often stated as “we need to talk”. Perhaps it should be, “I need to listen”. Hearing, really hearing with one’s heart as well as one’s ears is a gift to the other of respect, time and patience. I would like to propose to change the old expression “I’m all ears” to “I’m all heart”.
Today I will actively listen with my heart.