“Knowledge speaks, wisdom listens”
Listening has to be one of the most underrated skills we possess. We live in society in which being heard is idealised, glamourised and even romanticised. Whether it is posting your thoughts on social media or texting in to your favourite radio show to have register your objection to whatever news story is on at that time. People’s opinions, thoughts and general misgivings must be heard. I am just as guilty as anyone in partaking in this online dance of narcissistic self congratulatory ranting. But if we are all incessantly wanting to be heard, who is actually listening?
Without listening we become detached, we begin to misunderstand and we lose our sense of connection. Communities begin to become suspicious of each other, individuals begin to distrust each other and we start to see division throughout society. Without listening we stop engaging with ideas outside our own personal life bubble. The outcome of this often means we don’t take the time to empathise with other groups in society, we simply dismiss their ideas as not our own and therefore not right.
So in a world where listening is becoming a rarity what can be done about it? Well, all you can ever really do is take action as an individual and start listening yourself. This can sound a little weird because you may thing I listen, well I try to, how can I listen better? What can I do to improve my listening skills? Well, there are different types of listening. Through understanding how they work you can work on your skills in order to improve your ability.
There are generally 4 different levels of listening available:
This is when we listen for what confirms our own thinking. This may seem the one of the most common forms of listening people adopt today. Living in our internet bubbles we rarely need to do anything else, we can always block someone if we don’t want to hear what they want to say, right? This is a form of listening that has little value to the speaker or the listener.
When you listen to someone else and look for what is different in their arguments or beliefs to you in order to use that to convince them of your world view; this is attentive listening. This is almost certainly the most common form of listening. The world is awash with people who are trying to convince others of their point of view, I know I am guilty of this at times. This does nothing for those being listened to, nothing at all.
This is a form of listening which is where the speaker starts to feel understood. As the listener you start to see the world as they see it, you start to feel things as they feel them. You are beginning to understand their worldview and value it. This can have a profound impact on both the speaker and listener.
This is the deepest form of listening. When we experience this both parties can be profoundly changed. We can describe the experience as a feeling of visceral possibility, you have a great sense of conviction and belief “Yes I can do this!”. This is a relatively rare occurrence for most of us, but at some point in our lives we may have experienced this feeling before.
How to work on them
It is possible for you as an individual to work on these different levels of listening. The key to any effective listening is to understand you are there for the speaker, quieten your thoughts and focus on them. If you can quieten your mind, that is half the battle. The other aspect is that all of us feel like we need to help them or that we know better. Everyone has this ego drive in them to some degree, by mastering your ability to resist the temptation of unleashing this, you will become a much more effective listener.
You will grow through learning
Now some people may think why should I listen? What do I get out of it? Well the fact is as an effective listener you get so much out of it. Through engaging with others and taking the time to understand their world. You expand your horizons and are constantly learning about the world. Contrary to what many people think your world view is not the “right” view, it is merely a perspective. Everyone has a unique one and through listening you can enter into their world and understand things a little deeper.
In a world where being heard is becoming more and more idealised, we cannot ignore the listening. Without it we are in danger of becoming more and more divided, misunderstood and disconnected. By engaging your listening skills and applying them where you can, you can learn, grow and connect with others. You will create new possibilities in your thinking and in your life. You will also help others feel heard and engaged.