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5 Ways To Become A Better Listener

Reverence Events Perth

Poor listening signals to the people around you that you don’t care about them, so deciding to become a better listener is an incredibly loving move. My compelling journey towards better listening started in earnest 6 years ago….

The Limits of focusing on being more interesting

When Willow and I lived for 9 months on a tiny isolated island off the coast of NSW, I stumbled upon a book by Edward De Bono called “How to be more interesting”.

I grew up as the youngest child. We moved around a lot. I was sensitive and insecure. My brother was 6 years older than me and very smart.

I grew up thinking that what I had to say wasn’t very important, witty or interesting.

Therefore, with that belief about myself, I often wasn’t listened to very well.

People would cut me off, I wouldn’t tell stories that were very interesting, and I didn’t know how to really GIVE to a conversation in a generous way.

In De Bono’s book – I learned several confronting but powerful concepts – that the ability to bring an IDEA to a conversation created more interesting dialogue and that the art of ENQUIRY was paramount.

Being able to delve into ideas deeply in a wholly engaged way made for more meaningful interactions.

I began.

I did well, I did poorly. I criticised myself and came to awkward conversational dead ends…I was however, on the journey!

Over the 6 years since reading De Bono’s book, my commitment to becoming a more generous conversational partner has yielded a deeper and richer understanding.

One that is less about me being more interesting, and more about what gifts my presence and attention can offer others.

I have realised that developing the capacity to be a good listener is the most generous of gifts you can give (and does, ironically, make you a much more interesting person).

This is not a skill that is emphasised in our culture. Not at all.

What does being a good listener mean?

  • It is caring about the well-being of the person you are listening to
  • It is listening with the intention of drawing them out of themselves
  • It is intending to help them find their own way, not tell them your way
  • To gift your attention so they feel loved, appreciated and respected
  • For them to feel more confident and safe in the world after spending some time with you

From a less altruistic view, you also hold the position that each person you meet has had a full, interesting life and that by truly listening, your world view, your intelligence and your self-awareness may increase during the interaction.

During this discovery journey, I came to the realisation that I was not a good listener.

Nope – I had been too self-focused and insecure to gift that kind of generous attention.

But the commitment was there, and if I continued to make progress….even over my whole lifetime, I decided I would be happy with that.

5 ways to develop better listening skills

  1. INTEND to listen and intend to become a better listener. This is powerful. It automatically sharpens your focus away from your own internal dialogue and towards the other
  2. Be mindful of when your attention turns back towards yourself and your own experience: Stay quiet and gently redirect your focus back to the other person (e.g. when someone tells you they have started yoga, refrain from jumping in and giving your views on the best yoga centres or on how you have been doing yoga for the past 10 years and how it has helped you. Ask how it is benefiting them, for example)
  3. Stay out of your judgemental mind – listen to THEIR story, their version of events without a moral or opinionated overlay: This kind of focus may yield something new for them (and us), deliver them somewhere, or at the very least they will feel nourished.
  4. Stay with the natural thread of the conversation. This is where new thoughts, ideas and insights can unfold. Resist the urge to “catch up” on all the items that have occurred since you last saw the person, stay with what is present in that moment. This kind of focus may yield something new for them (and us), deliver them somewhere, or at the very least they will feel nourished.
  5. Don’t expect others to do the same for you. Most people don’t listen well. Just know that the quality of your care through your listening is what they truly deserve. And let that be enough.

    Remember, poor listening signals to the people around you that you don’t care about them, so it really is an incredibly loving move to decide to become a better listener.

    In Conclusion

    I still feel like an infant in my journey to becoming a good listener, but I am committed to this radically counter-cultural stand and I hope I have inspired you to make a more deliberate start as well!

    Let us know how you go!

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