Listeners Blog

Monthly Archives: September 2012


Did you feel you just weren’t heard today?

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We’ve mentioned before that one of our core beliefs is that being heard is valuable. We are here to hear you, to support you in your journey to discover your inner truth.

We feel listening is important because there are so many times when it can be a struggle to be heard. Think about the last time you tried to talk to your boss. Did he or she interrupt, say you shouldn’t worry, not take your concerns seriously? Or did you get the “look-engaged-until-they-stop-talking” routine they teach in management seminars?

How about your last doctor’s appointment? Studies have shown that while patients need an average of about two minutes to tell their story, doctors let them speak for about 20 seconds before interrupting. The result? After the visit, the doctor and the patient have very different interpretations of why the patient was there — nearly 50 percent of the time. The doctor wasn’t listening; the patient wasn’t heard.

Let us know about a time when you felt you weren’t heard. We’re here to listen.



Listening, not directing

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When you want to talk about important issues, you aren’t necessarily looking for advice. But how many times have you heard someone else’s opinion on what you should do with your life — even when that doesn’t help sort out your deeper ideas and emotions?

Telling people what to do is easy; truly listening to someone in search of a personal truth is hard work. It requires the listener to let go of the natural impulse to solve problems. We are doing something vitally important by just being here; there’s no need to direct someone else’s life-movie.

Sometimes casual listeners are not even aware they have stepped into the role of director. But saying things to make you “feel better” about painful issues or providing their “perspective” on your situation actually moves the conversation away from your intensely personal exploration. Directive listening derails the process of understanding; supportive listening clears the tracks to personal enlightenment.

It takes time, space and conversational support for anyone to feel that he or she has truly been heard. Listeners need to know when someone is looking for advice and when what that person really needs is someone to relate to in the present, in a non-judgmental way. Talking to someone who listens with caring and clarity of vision puts you back in the director’s chair in your own life.



Can you hear me now?

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What is the difference between hearing and listening? Hearing is the physical act of perceiving sound. Listening is the intellectual act of perceiving meaning. For true communication to occur, we must be willing to do both.

The words “communication” and “communion” share obvious roots. To fully share with another person, to actually “hear where they’re coming from,” we need to set aside everything else. Not just the smartphone and the TV and the to-do list, but also the mental filters that we all have constructed from personal experience and unexamined assumptions.

Information that agrees with our built-in filters finds an easy path into our brains. Input that challenges what we think we know about the world — and ourselves — has a more difficult time getting through. That’s why truly listening to and understanding another person can be hard work.

It’s not hard to pass judgment on the words someone says, point out their “errors” or tell them what to do, and move on. It is much more challenging to listen intentionally to the meaning behind the words, to keep an open mind and an open heart that allows their search for their own truth to unfold. When we speak, we should acknowledge the value of their ideas and encourage further revelations.

How do we know we have really listened to another person? It can be a transformational experience. Both speaker and listener feel uplifted, inspired, connected on a deeper level — a true communion.



Talking to Strangers in the Air

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Airplanes offer a unique opportunity for a positive listening experience. Not only are they one of the few public places not yet filled with cellphone shouters, they also place us in close, nearly intimate, proximity to our seatmates for hours. And unless you’re traveling to an industry convention or a secluded resort, there’s a good chance you’ll never see the person next to you again.

The next time you find yourself sharing an armrest with a complete stranger, forget what your mother always told you. Instead of sticking in the earbuds, try striking up a conversation. A neutral comment about the weather, getting to the airport, your destination can signal a willingness to talk; following up with a question will let you know if your seatmate is also interested in talking. If not, respect his or her privacy and read your SkyMall.

If the person next to you wants to interact, remember the first rule of good conversation: “It’s better to be interested than interesting.” Decide to listen totally to the other person. Be attentive, make eye contact, and acknowledge that you are hearing the other person without judgment. Don’t interrupt, don’t think ahead to what you’ll say next, don’t overshare. Ask more questions, make fewer statements.

Remember, a real conversation is a two-handed game. If you start small and listen with an open heart and an open mind, you may find that by the time you touch down, you have both had a transformational experience.