How To Become A Better Listener

Why is it that some individuals are good listeners, and others are not? In this article we will examine how feelings and thoughts affect our ability to listen. We will also look at the benefits of active listening, and the challenges you are likely to face along the way.

Towards the end of the post, you will learn the techniques that have worked for me and get some practical advice on how to start out with your listening practice.

I believe most cultures value the ability to listen attentively, which is a way of giving a person undivided attention. Moreover, it's caring to give attention.

I'm sure you have family members, friends and colleagues that are both good and bad listeners. What is it like to talk to someone who really listens, compared to someone who doesn't? What are your experiences?

Personally, I don't enjoy talking to people who are full of themselves. All they do is talk about themselves and their concerns. It's not rewarding to have a conversation with someone who craves attention all the time. That is to say, they want you to listen to them. To me, it's common sense to balance how much you talk and listen.

There are obviously exceptions, for instance, if you have a lot of good news or have had a bad experience that you want to share. Then, it's easier to listen too, compared to lending an ear to someone who is full of himself.

Listening is a selfless act.

Some people listen, but it's quite obvious that it's not sincere. During the conversation they look around, as opposed to facing you. In other words, they are not interested in talking with you.

Needless to say, it's justified not to give full attention to certain people. That includes rude, dishonest and foolish individuals.

Some people are naturally good listeners? Why is that, do you think?

The Benefits Of Listening

Why would you like to be a better listener? That is an interesting question. Deep inside, all of us want to do what is good and right. It also feels good to be appreciated and liked by other people.

So, how do others benefit when you listen to them?

It's naturally healing to receive attention. A classic example of that is the mother who comforts her child. The more attentive you are, and the more you care for the person; the deeper the healing, and the more calming and soothing are the affects.

Listening is to give support.

To listen attentively to a person that speaks is to recognize or acknowledge her.

Further, listening lends itself well to mindfulness practice. That way, it becomes much more than just listening for the sake of doing what is good and right.

For spiritual seekers, listening can be part of the moral practice. Then, listening is an opportunity to cultivate selflessness.

As you already know, it's considered polite to listen, as opposed to talking too much; or even worse, to cut people off.

The Main Challenges

Why is it that some individuals are terrible listeners? The ego craves attention, "Listen to me." You may also think you are more knowledgeable than those around you, and use that as a justification for doing most of the talking.

When the ego is big, the mental and emotional pull is too strong to contain. Consequently, listening becomes a struggle with impatience, restlessness and anger. The ego resists having to listen, which makes for unpleasant mental states.

Many people are too stressed out to listen actively. Having to listen while you are bathing in stress, fuels the impatience and restlessness.

Often times it's boring to listen. Besides, you may not like the conversation or the person's personality.

For some individuals, it's challenging not to cut others off in conversation. Perhaps you completely disagree with what they say, want to make a comment or change the topic altogether. It's hard to resist the pull of strong emotions. Cutting people off is not only a lack of self-control, it's rude too.

It's difficult for an emotionally reactive person to listen. The unpleasant feelings that are stirring inside are simply overwhelming.

Another point is that we think while listening. You agree or disagree with what is being said, and prepare your arguments to convince the others that you are in the right. This is an act of the ego, which has a strong tendency to defend itself.

So, what does it take to be a good listener?

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The Mindset Of A Good Listener

Be sympathetic and take a genuine interest in what the person has to say. Try to understand where she is coming from and how she thinks. In short, connect with her.

Be patient, listening is an art of giving attention. So, listen patiently.

Without a willingness to listen, impatience and restlessness will dominate your mental state.

Accept what is being said, don't resist it. This is an effective way to avoid an argument. After all, what you argue against is only the opinion of another person.

Don't entertain unnecessary thoughts while listening. Rather, just be there for the person, or phrased differently, be fully present.

Mindfulness is a wonderful tool. By giving relaxed attention to your meditation object while listening, soothing stillness arises, which makes for comfort and ease. This naturally does away with impatience, restlessness and stress.

How To Start Out

Start out with pre-selected situations. For example, when you are alone with an individual who is not argumentative. That makes it much easier to listen, without feeling the urge to air your opinions and defend yourself all the time.

It's fine to say a few words here and there, as long as you don't control the conversation. There is no need to be totally silent, which would be unnatural.

Since you are after real-life practice, do not mention that you are training your listening skills.

What is more, make sure you feel relaxed and at ease. Don't attempt to practice listening after a stressful day at work or when you are wound up. The calmer and the more centered you are, the easier it is to listen.

The purpose of this exercise is to improve your ability to listen and give attention to another person. Therefore, put your opinions and personal preferences aside during the conversation. Relax and take an interest in what the subject has to say. Listen attentively.

I'm sure you are able to give attention and listen well. You may even surprise yourself and the person you are talking to.

Regardless of how your listening practice comes along, don't be hard on yourself. It's better to accept where you are at. That means accepting your failures and shortcomings. Remember that the roots of your habits and tendencies run deep; thus, it requires ongoing effort to bring about change.

With experience, it becomes easier to listen without commenting and arguing with what is being said. Opt to keep mentally and emotionally calm. That makes it easier to just listen.

By becoming an attentive listener, you will spread a lot of goodness and warmth around you. It's beautiful that such a simple thing as listening, can make a difference in people's lives.

Best of luck!

Related:   Learning To Apologize   Restlessness   Dealing With Frustration

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