Good Listener Secrets – Listen with Your Heart

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When someone is talking to you, do you hear with your ears, monitor with your mind, or listen with your heart?

Listening skills are major contributors to the quality of our personal relationships. But, good listeners are hard to find.

Invest a few minutes thinking about the importance of listening well — a deliberate conscious act — and watch your relationships grow to a new level of closeness and understanding.

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When we really listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other. We are constantly being re-created.” – Brenda Ueland

We Don’t Have Ear-lids

Have you ever wondered why we don’t have ear-lids? When we’re tired of looking, we close our eyes. We can breathe through our mouth to stop the smell. The sense of taste can be turned off by keeping our mouth shut. If we don’t want to feel something, we simply don’t touch it. But, we have no ear-lids. Our sense of hearing is on-call 24/7. Therefore, it must be important. Our ears feed us a continuous stream of sensory input — it’s how we choose to engage with it that makes all the difference.

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus (AD 55?-135?)

Listening with Your Heart

Real communication occurs when emotions are engaged. You care. You listen with compassion, empathy, and a sincere desire to understand and connect.

When you are listening with your heart, your mind is at peace. It is not jumping all around in your head, eagerly looking for a pause so you can interrupt with your version of whatever is being said. Your reason for listening is not to find a way to change the focus to your story. There is no competition. You have nothing to prove.

Instead, you are attentive, practicing presence to allow the other person space for expression. Your gift to them is to provide a safe place for them to express how they feel. You care, so you shut-up and listen.

“Listen and attend with the ear of your heart.” – Saint Benedict (d. c. 547)

In this state of awareness, your emotional antennas are fully extended. Your internal world of feelings is on-call and ready for action. This doesn’t mean you jump at any excuse to overly emotionalize what is being said. Instead, it means that you are willing to go beyond the words being spoken to share the feeling place that gave rise to the words in the first place.

In meaningful communication, the words themselves are merely signposts pointing to something deeper — possible wispy, nebulous thoughts just beginning to congeal into words, or a feeling that is difficult to express. If we are still and receptive, often we can tune into the same feeling and share something profound, in spite of the inadequate and inefficient words.

“The reality of the other person lies not in what he reveals to you but in what he cannot reveal to you. Therefore, if you would understand him, listen not to what he says but rather to what he does not say.” – Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)

Listening with Your Mind

This style of shallow, mental communication is just a little better than being ignored completely. This represents a kind of communication competition. The person is listening mentally to find the best opportunity for one-up-man-ship. They always have a better story. They are quick to interrupt and inject their opinion, especially when it’s different from yours. Often, this is done with great urgency and unnecessary volume. The volume tactic makes it more difficult for any other mental “communicator” to interrupt with their more important viewpoint.

This kind of exchange is tiring, unless you are also playing by the same rules. Those engaged in “interrupting one-up-man-ship” don’t seem to notice the decibels rising in proportion to the degree of triviality of what is being said. For those of us on the sidelines of such a contest, it makes us wish we could close our ear-lids.

“When you talk, you repeat what you already know; when you listen, you often learn something.” – Jared Sparks (1789-1866)

“Listen or your tongue will keep you deaf.” – Native American Proverb

Hearing — Only with Your Ears

Sometimes, we are merely aware that someone is talking. We are not thinking about what they are saying and we have no particular feelings about what is being said. This is the most common mode of hearing, simply as a technique for the preservation of sanity. If we gave our undivided attention to all the audio input we are constantly receiving, it wouldn’t take long to reach sensory overload.

The media is a major contributor to this kind of noise pollution. Sound bites run rampant. Talking heads are blathering on and on, around the clock. Radio and TV feed us a non-ending stream of unimportant verbiage.

If we deliberately engaged our minds with all of these extraneous words, we wouldn’t be able to hear ourselves think. So, we learn to shut it out. We may hear the words (faintly) but we give them no attention. We don’t think about what is being said, and we certainly don’t feel anything about what is being said. We simply don’t care.

Unfortunately, this same attitude translates to some of our conversations with other people. It may register in our minds that they are talking, but we remain unengaged. You see this style of “communication” taken to a fine art by old married couples. Somebody may be talking, but nobody is listening. (Sometimes, even the speaker is not hearing what is being said. That would be quite amusing if it wasn’t so sad.)

From this level of non-awareness and non-engagement, next there is the style of partial engagement. Have you ever been in a conversation when the other person is obviously not following what you are saying? They are distracted by whatever else is going on around you — the TV, someone walking by, their own thoughts . . . whatever. How does that make you feel?

Yeah, I don’t like it either. It makes you feel unimportant, not appreciated, and uninteresting. It comes off as being inconsiderate — even rude.

“You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” – Dr. M. Scott Peck

If you get this reaction from everyone, it might be time to be your own best listener. Objectively listen to what pours out of your mouth. Do you have something interesting, relevant and helpful to say, or are you just talking? If the quality of your outflow is questionable, try to talk about more interesting stuff. If you get this ho-hum reaction consistently from the same person, it may be time to re-evaluate your relationship with the ideas discussed in a previous article entitled, “Choose the Companionship of Positive People Who Inspire You.”

When the Words Go On and On and On

We all know people who seem to have an inexhaustible supply of words. Often the words are being offered (at bulk rate), not as an attempt for deep conversation and significant connection, but for any number of other more superficial reasons. Perhaps the person simply has a low self-image, and they hide behind an incessant string of words. Personal insecurities often manifest as a motor-mouth style of speech. This may be done consciously, but often is done without the speaker’s awareness — subconsciously.

Constant talking can also be a sign of deep loneliness. Have you ever met people who speak every single thought that happens to be running through their mind? This is not really an attempt at conversation. It’s more of an exercise in show-and-tell.

When you tune into this kind of verbiage barrage, you don’t have time for any thoughts of your own. And if you engage your emotions, all you get is confusion, frustration and fatigue. What can you do?

You can politely excuse yourself and walk away. Or, if it’s the kind of quality relationship that allows for candor, you can tell your friend that he seems to be suffering from a bout of mental and verbal diarrhea, and it’s draining you both. (You may want to find a more gentle way to express the idea . . . or maybe not.)

Good Listening Means Being Ready

Obviously, there are many levels of communication among people and every utterance is not an attempt to bare all and connect soul to soul. Still. It’s good to be ready.

Everyone needs personal connection of that quality, and few people are in the habit of being available when such a need arises. If it is your habit to merely hear with your ears, or monitor with your mind, you could easily miss the invitation and opportunity to connect with someone in a meaningful way.

“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899-1961)

How do you find people with this caliber of communication skills? The irony is they are often the quiet ones. They are not the ones interrupting you with their high-decibel one-up-man-ship. They are not the ones whose eyes and minds wander away in the middle of your sentence. They are not the ones who habitually say, “huh?” and claim to have heard nothing when you just spoke clearly right to them.

Instead, they are the ones who graciously become silent when interrupted, instead of talking louder and faster. They are not concerned about losing their turn. They are the still, quiet and calm ones you can count on to listen . . . and really hear you.

“And anytime you need me, I can be right there,
Know that you can call on me, call from anywhere.
I’m just as close as a heartbeat, with a hand I’d love to lend,
Just let me know and let it flow, let me be your friend.”
- from the song, “All That We Take With Us” by Tupelo Kenyon

Good listeners offer a still pond of attention, so when you cast the stones of your words, you know they will sink deep. When you have something important to say, they are all ears . . . mind . . . AND heart.

“The older I grow, the more I listen to people who don’t talk much.” – Germain G. Glidden

It’s easy to miss your opportunity to connect with this caliber of super-listener. They are content to simply listen, so your impression might be that they have nothing to offer. It’s up to you to find out because they won’t interrupt you to force their opinion. But if ask, and then contain yourself long enough to listen, you might learn something . . . about them . . . about things that you no nothing about . . . and even about yourself.

“It is the province of knowledge to speak, It is the privilege of wisdom to listen.” – Christine Lane

Good listeners care enough about you to go beyond their clamoring mind to get in touch with the deep feelings concealed behind the words. They are interested in identifying with the peacefulness — the silent witness — the watcher who sits in the stillness and knows. They know that, deep inside, we are the same. Beyond the words, beyond the histrionics of ego, forever jockeying for position, good listeners know that we are all pure being — the sense of “I am.”

When you connect at this level, words are rarely necessary. They become amusing playthings for sport — puns and jokes to help you enjoy one another through laughter and joy. Together, you can share the myrth of poking fun at the inadequacies of language.

When you find such a person, you have found a true treasure. When you become such a person, you are in a position to offer others a rare and valuable gift — your time, your undivided attention, your empathy, compassion and feelings of closeness. Your heart.

How do you become such a person? A good place to begin is to begin listening . . . listen with your heart.

“To stay in love . . . live from your heart,
It’s just a little give and take, to stay together even when you’re apart.
To stay in love . . . give from your heart,
Take a little and give a lot, and talk it over from the very start.
Stay in love, and live . . . live from your heart.”
- from the song, “Live From Your Heart” by Tupelo Kenyon

While reading, did you choose to hear the relaxing instrumental music linked at the beginning of this article? To learn more about it, click here.

Listen FREE to the songs below . . . chosen to enhance the ideas in this article.

Related Songs
All That We Take With Us
Even sorrow brings us gifts of deeper understanding and a clearer perspective of what is really important.

Trash Our Treasures
People seem to have a history of awarding seemingly insignificant details with places of prominence in our lives, while ignoring or even destroying the most important aspects.

Who is the Watcher
Explores the silent witness within and the idea that life occurs in this present moment. Always.

Low Maintenance Relationship
Life seems to be all about relationships . . . to our friends, families, lovers, and to our creator. There’s always room for improvement.

Live From Your Heart
We all come from a long, long, long line of love. And our lives are enhanced exponentially when we interact with one another as if that mattered.

Songs by Tupelo

Related Links

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Choose the Companionship of Positive People Who Inspire You
If the people you spend the most time with are inspiring, supportive, encouraging, and they demonstrate qualities you want to emulate – great, you are on the right track. If not, it’s up to you to do something about it. Life is too short to put up with other people’s pity parties, bitch-and-moan marathons, and oh-woe-is-me clubs.

10 Ways to Grow a Relationship of Mutual Personal Development
Even though the way of discovery and personal growth is a one-lane road, it sure is nice to be able to share stretches of it with someone else. With what kind of person could you share something so profound? If having this kind of life partner is important to you, have you asked yourself, “How can I be that kind of person?

How to Keep Your Word
This article is a poignant reminder of the power of your word. Celebrate life by honoring your word . . . and therefore the people with whom you interact.

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This is the end of the article entitled Good Listener Secrets – Listen with Your Heart published by Tupelo Kenyon on October 19, 2007 at 5:00 am | In Awareness, Communication, Relationships - Copyright 2007 - All rights reserved worldwide.

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