Seth Godin made a blog post this week about how to listen. I think it’s great, and people really don’t acknowledge the value of listening nearly enough, and I want to share with you my thoughts on good listening.
During my yoga teacher training, we had a few guest teachers visit, and one of them was Gary Kraftsow. Gary is an unassuming person. He doesn’t make a big production of entering a room, and when he’s talking to a group, you don’t think about how great his presentation is. Rather, you just get absorbed in what he’s saying because he’s very focused on the material instead of himself. And when you talk to him, he listens, and you feel … well, heard.
A couple times during our session with Gary, I had the chance to ask him questions, and each time, I felt so fully heard and acknowledged that it almost brought me to tears. Even though I was asking very simple questions (e.g. “What’s the appropriate way to do this twist for someone with an upper back injury?”) Gary gave me his full attention when I spoke, and it was extremely gratifying. It was lovely to feel heard and respected and to receive a thoughtful answer to my questions. Gary had a lot to teach us in the few days he was at the studio, but that feeling of being heard is the most important thing I will remember, and it’s something I strive to offer to everyone I interact with.
When was the last time you talked to someone and felt like they were truly listening to you? We experience this so rarely that many of us don’t even know what it feels like to be heard, nor are we sure how to really listen. We are so accustomed to our minds being elsewhere, preoccupied by a million different thoughts! Whether we’re waiting for a chance to jump in and talk, compulsively fidgeting with a cell phone, or letting our minds wander while people talk about things we simply find boring, what we’re really doing is missing an opportunity to connect.
So, how do you listen? Seth’s post has some good pointers for showing that you’re listening, but I want to take it a step further. Don’t just act like you’re listening. Make listening a meditation. Listen with compassion. Offer other people the experience of being heard. Listen like what they’re saying is your favorite song and you want to absorb every note. BE PRESENT FOR OTHER PEOPLE.