Listening: How often do we truly listen?

In an environment where our senses are constantly stimulated I am faced with the realisation that we may be losing our ability to listen properly.  At one level, we listen to the things we want to hear or feel the need to respond to, for example: our alarm clock, the beep of emails or questions aimed directly at us.  All of these things demand some type of response and we are effectively “listening” so we can take action.

Reflecting over the last couple of days I’m becoming more aware of how much I am not listening to.  In my job as a coach, I know I really listen to my clients because it is a critical part of my job.  It is important to actively listen and do this well because I know how incredibly powerful it is.  I recognise I am more than capable to free my mind and truly listen.  So what is different in other areas of my life?  The reality is I don’t listen as well.  I feel too busy, too rushed and my mind is often preoccupied with all the “things I must do”.  After work, typically I’m dashing to pick the children up from school and trawling through my emails en-route.  Of course I can hear noises in the background but I dismiss them.  They don’t require my attention.

Having recently listened to Julian Treasure’s Ted talk where he suggests listening quietly for 3 minutes a day, I made the pledge to try it.  On my journey home, I put down my phone, dismissed Metro and just sat quietly.  I noticed things.  I could hear a quiet conversation in the background, the train “humming” and people laughing….3 different people to be exact.  The noise of laughter made me smile and appreciate the moment.  If I had been on my phone, I wouldn’t have noticed what was happening with such acuteness.  In addition, listening made me observant.  I was aware of a man and woman, anxious about whether they were on the right train but sharing a sense of comfort that they “were in it together”.  The man smiled at me as he opened a packet of biscuits and then quickly apologized for making a noise.  The noise didn’t matter but I wonder what he was thinking?  This event highlighted that in that moment, I connected with another because I was present: listening and watching the whole picture.

Julian Treasure suggests we recalibrate and sit quietly to “just listen” for 3 minutes per day.  This is definitely something I am going to do.  Just listening made me smile, connect and appreciate things I might normally miss.  By not listening properly it makes me wonder how much more I am missing out on.  I’ve raised my awareness of the importance of truly listening.

Questions you can consider that can help build your own awareness include:

  • What distracts you from listening?
  • When someone is talking, do you listen to respond?
  • Do you find yourself preparing answers in your mind whilst someone else is still talking?
  • What does it feel like when someone really listens to you?
  • When do you find yourself truly listening?  How could you do more of it?

Imagine both at work and at home the impact you might have by just enhancing your own listening skills.  I noticed a change in only three minutes and it made my day even better.