There is power in listening. It is necessary and valuable not only to understand another’s point of view but able to listen for an opportunity to have your ideas heard. The power to listen is somewhat different. Without awareness and understanding, you may believe you are listening when, in fact, your mind is distracted with your thoughts. You may think you can listen to someone while on your computer, or to a child while you are cooking dinner but in truth, you don’t really hear them, and they don’t feel listened to.
In her book It’s That Simple: A User’s Manual for Human Beings, author Mavis Karn writes: “If you want to make a positive difference with anyone, anywhere, at any time, all you need to do is listen to them. I mean really listen.”
What Mavis means by ‘really listening’ is setting aside all the noisy mental activity in your head in favour of gaining an understanding what someone else is trying to convey. “It means listening so deeply and so clearly that you can understand what is in someone else’s heart, no matter the words he or she may be speaking“. I would add, even if they are angry and ranting.
Among the four ways of listening Mavis outlines, including distracted, evaluating and ‘paying attention’, the most profound way is deep listening or quiet listening. In this mode you won’t be checking your phone, diagnosing the problem, assessing their personality type, formulating a solution, thinking of a response, comparing with your experience, taking notes, trying to remember what they say or even empathizing with them.
You relax, clear your mind and listen until you get a ‘feeling’ of what the person is trying to communicate – often beyond the words they are using. When you listen at this level, you begin to feel connected to that person. He or she feels deeply listened to, deeply seen, and in return, will be open to listening to you.
You can also use the mode of deep listening on yourself. Dial down your analytical thinking and listen for the deeper knowing that provides guidance and certainty from within.