The art of listening

Listening has become a lost art. Although we are taught the
communication tools of reading, writing and verbalising from childhood,
the art of active and empathetic listening is often overlooked.  
Research suggests that people accurately comprehend and recall
approximately 50% of what they hear. Within the next forty eight hours,
most forget half of the retained information, hence leaving a mere 25%
of what was initially heard.

Why is listening so hard?

Most of the time, and especially in the midst of disagreements, we are
busy formulating our own opinion and thinking about what we are going to
say. This prevents us from actually hearing what is being said. In
addition, emotions such as anger and certain words may trigger thought
patterns that can cause our mind to be distracted and wander. As a
consequence, we hear what we want to hear and don’t hear what we don’t
want to hear.

Only when we are externally silent and have quietened our inner chatter
can true listening happen. This creates the space for a deep
understanding of what the other person really wants to communicate. The
inability to set aside the urge to voice our emotions and opinions and
listen without judgment is a major cause for misunderstandings and
disagreements. The complaint that family, employers and others are not
listening to us is commonplace in today’s society, and may be a major
factor in the popularity of therapy, where one feels one is being
listened to.

Why is listening so important to people?

Because listening is attention, and attention is energy! When you
genuinely listen to someone, you not only boost their self worth, but
also their energy levels! This is why people feel so fulfilled when
someone listens to them. If you listen closely when somebody is sharing,
especially if they are sharing a problem, you will see that almost
always, what they are looking for is understanding and empathy, not your
solutions for their problems.

It is also a commonly held notion that one has to be loud and heard to
be noticed and to progress in society. In fact true power may lie in the
ability to be silent and truly listen as this brings real insight into
the needs and how we can best interact with the other. Studies show that
true leadership is linked to the ability to effectively listen to those
around you.

Practise the art of listening in your life. Observe the tendencies we
have to formulate our responses without really listening to the other,
and see what new understandings and closeness it can bring with those in
your life.

– Swami Nithyananda