Listeners Blog

Monthly Archives: January 2013


Create a listening space

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This might not come as a surprise, but research continues to prove that multitasking really isn’t very efficient.

In fact, the most recent study, from the University of Utah, found that the people who thought they were the best at multitasking were more likely to be those who were most easily distracted by interruptions. Previous studies have also shown that the human brain doesn’t switch gears very rapidly; it also doesn’t retain information received from multiple sources simultaneously very well.

When it comes to actually accomplishing tasks, focused individuals — those who don’t respond immediately to every email ding or pop-up message or bright, shiny object— actually get more done.

The same is true when it comes to listening. If you really want to hear what someone is saying, you need to clear a space, not only in your day but also in your mind. Truly meaningful conversations can only take place where there are no interruptions, no distractions. That allows you the freedom to concentrate completely on what the other person is saying. Then you can truly hear and support that person as he or she talks through important issues.

Creating an interruption-free zone for a conversation shows that you are sincerely interested in what the speaker has to say, and there is nothing more important in that moment to you than hearing it. That alone can help build the kind of trust needed to begin a conversational journey to an inner truth.



Listen for the learning moment

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Did you know that the right to be heard is one of the fundamental human rights recognized by the United Nations? It was spelled out in 1989 as Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Right of the Child — children have a right to express their views on decisions that affect them and have those views taken seriously in accordance with their age and maturity.

Not surprisingly, Save the Children and UNICEF found in 2011 that this article has been the most difficult to implement, even after more than 20 years of effort. While the UN says it is not possible to claim other rights without a voice, traditions in cultures around the world weigh heavily against grownups really listening to kids, let alone taking what they say seriously.

Think about some of our common Western ideas: Children should be seen and not heard. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t talk back to your elders. Teenagers aren’t interested in what adults have to say.

Doesn’t sound like the basis for an open dialog, does it? So it shouldn’t be a shock that the latest research shows that the best way for parents to develop a healthy relationship with their children is to listen to them.

Whenever you talk with young people, take the time to really hear what is behind their questions — do they really want to know “where babies come from” or whether the family ever moved into a new house? Give them space to form their thoughts without interruption or correction. Never make them feel silly or ashamed of asking questions just because you think you know the answers. And don’t assume you know where the conversation is going — you just might learn something new.

If you carry these rules over into conversations with adults, you will become a better listener, no matter who is speaking.



Why does “talking things through” feel so good?

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We all know what it feels like to be ignored: it can be frustrating and even anger provoking. If the situation continues for a long time, we may come to expect to be rejected and stop trying to be heard altogether.

When we close ourselves off from emotional feedback, our self-worth takes a big hit. We can begin to believe our own distorted view of who we are and wind up feeling stressed out, confused, depressed and generally bad about our lives.

That’s when we seem to only focus on the downside, turning away well-deserved praise and unable to handle criticism constructively. It’s hard to find a healthy perspective.

According to the Greek philosopher Epictetus, “People are not disturbed by events themselves, but rather by the views they take of them.” It’s up to us to identify the thought patterns that lower self-esteem and do what’s needed to develop a more balanced view of the world and our place in it.

Talking to a supportive listener –someone who will truly hear us without judgment or imposing his or her own views –can be an invaluable first step.

Some experts suggest writing down what upsets us — and chronicling our reactions will help identify underlying causes, but writing is just one approach: a solitary act.

Hearing ourselves talk about a situation in a safe, encouraging environment with someone who is completely focused on what we have to say adds a greater emotional depth to our words. And outcomes can be more tangible with someone to listen to our accomplishments on the journey into self-worth.

Give one of our trained listeners a call and see how good it feels to talk your way to your inner truth.



Listen Like a Beginner

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Here at the beginning of a new year — a year that also marks the beginning of a number of new great cycles— we are filled with anticipation of all the possibilities before us. How better to stay open to those possibilities than to listen like a beginner?

Zen philosophy teaches “in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” When you let go of the idea that you know everything there is to know about a subject, you can look at it with new eyes. When you let go of the idea that you know everything about another person, you can listen with new ears.

When someone needs a supportive listener to help talk through some important issues, they are not necessarily looking for answers. If you open up your beginner’s ear, you can hear what they are saying without any preconceptions or judgments. If you allow them to find their own truth without imposing your own approach to problem-solving — “If I were you, I’d do this” or “Here’s what you should do” — the results can be incredibly powerful, for both of you.

By talking to someone with a beginner’s ear, you can discover thoughts and solutions that come from your inner being. By listening with a beginner’s ear, you will learn that you don’t know what you don’t know.

And knowing that can be the beginning of wisdom.