Conscience is the voice of the soul.

~ Polish Proverb ~

Stop Listening

August 19th, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 1 sec

Talking but not hearing.

Talking but not hearing.

Please stop listening, at least, for a few minutes. Better yet, plan ahead and make it for an hour or two. Because when you do you’ll be able to hear everything and everyone dramatically better.

One of the reasons we don’t listen too well to each other is because we think we know what’s coming up next. This predictive ability generally works better than the dreaded predictive text on your smartphone. Except, like your phone, it has no way of coping with novel situations.

Your friend may be telling you the same old story they like to drag out at times like these. So you stop listening. Only, you think still are.

Inside your mind, little is being allowed to come through. But outside, you are still looking  (though a tad more glazed over than usual) and nodding (having learnt all these tricks during your teen years).

Yet, when your friend starts telling you new something different, you barely register. Your listening mind has basically shut up shop and put the “closed” sign out. While your friend starts sharing from their heart, you are effectively barely there.

Unfortunately, this failure to hear is common. So common in fact that the vast majority of us consistently don’t listen well at all. Whilst making all the right signs that we’re taking it in, we are mostly thinking about how sore our feet are in those shoes, how hungry we feel, and how attractive that new person looks who just walked by.

That’s why you ought to stop listening first, preferably in a quiet place. Then you can attune yourself to the minimal sounds around you (for there are always things to listen to wherever you go) and keep your hearing focused on those.

Silence – or at least peacefulness – helps recalibrate your hearing. Removing yourself from others for a while attunes your mind to the novelty of speech and how interesting it is to hear what even the most familiar people have to say.

So try this and conduct your own field tests. Spend a couple of hours by yourself with no radio, phone, or screen-based technology in the quietest, most peaceful place you can find. Let your mind wander where it will but avoid speaking aloud or reading. Just power down your inputs to a very gentle state but remain awake.

Later, when you return to your regular situations, focus on listening and avoid the desire to talk about your experience. Instead, intently watch who is speaking and tune into their breathing, pauses, and subtle speaking features.

When you do this, you might like to talk about what you noticed with someone else afterwards. Or, perhaps take a few notes in a “listening record”, jotting down what you picked up in the process.

Surprisingly, when it comes to rediscovering listening, less is not only more. It’s a revelation.

The Conversational Geisha

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