Have you ever wondered why we have two ears? Usually, people say – “so that we can listen more and talk less.” That’s alright but that’s not the reason why we were created with two ears on both sides of our head. We have two ears so that we can understand the direction of the noise, our hearing ability widens, clarity of what we hear increases, the strain of loud noise is reduced or divided between our two ears. And to help our ears to listen more effectively we have got two eyes as well, which help us to see, read, understand and focus on the person and his expressions. But sadly, despite having two ears and two eyes we often fail to listen to others.
I have heard many telling me that I am a good listener, but a few others from my close bunch think, that I am not. So, when the topic of listening came up and I started weighing my art of listening, I found a few startling facts about myself.
Following are the findings:
- I am patient enough listening to a stranger.
- I am very calm and have listened to someone who’s angry, has control and authority over me.
- I am impatient to listen to something which I have heard repeatedly from a person many times.
- I am irritated and don’t like to listen when I am exhausted and tired.
- I am impatient and don’t like to listen attentively to a person who’s under my control and authority.
- I ask my family members and close relatives to wait.
- I listen to the person who interests me more over others.
And the findings can go on and on… But this contemplation helped me to understand my status regarding “listening” to others which made me understand that, “Listening” is a character when a person is inherently a good listener and it is an art to be learned over the years when a person can train himself or herself to listen to people and their hearts deliberately but effectively.
I concluded after a thorough introspection that, I have an inherent character of empathising with people, so I listen to them yet, I still have a lot of training required for myself to help me listen to the people carefully, skilfully and effectively.
Now, the next question popped up in my mind is – ‘how to rate my listening skills?’
I feel there are exactly three ways how I can rate my own listening skills…
- Feedback from the one I am listening to (the vulnerable one, the one in need, the counselled, etc.)
- Feedback from the one who stays along with me almost all the time (my spouse, friends, colleagues, etc.)
- Feedback from my inner being as I am the best person to know whether I have listened carefully or not
If you ask me regarding the basis of those feedbacks, then my answer would be they are based on my responses or the way I respond to the persons need an ear. Yeah, my each and every response to the one who shares his/her heart with me validates my listening skills.
Let me explain it little elaborately as under –
- Listening attentively: This is a very basic stage of this subject of listening. I think we all understand this very well. Our postures, our eye contact, and our interest in the matter or the person are important when we try to listen to someone in need or sharing. Paying attention needs time, patience and lots of compassion. Sreepriya and Kalpana came up with a lot of beautiful scenarios to validate what I want to say here. They gave instances explaining how our not being attentive to someone can jeopardize things around. My response of being an attentive listener validates my skill and lets me pass stage one.
- Listening to the emotions: This is not a situation where we will just get two chairs, one will speak and another will listen. We have to listen through noises, through fits of anger, shouts and even sobs. When people are upset, angry, frustrated, disappointed or hurt, their tendency is to discuss their feelings with others so that they can get a release from their anguish which has been clouding their hearts and minds for a long time. The scenario can be anywhere, within the family or professionally. However, if we simply look at them and shrug or respond by giving advice or by telling them what they did wrong, they won’t feel any better and will probably feel worse after sharing their hearts with us. Because all they want us to validate their feelings by conveying that understanding to them, showing our sympathy or empathy; by letting them know that we are with them listening to them lovingly, without being judgemental to their feelings or behaviours. Here, my response of decoding those shouts and noises and venting explain my skills. Am I bouncing back or absorbing everything to give the hurting comfort? Am I annoyed with the hyperactive person I am talking to or considerate enough to allow myself to be a punching bag for him or her to punch till he or she feels better? Joseph, wrote a touchy article to support my point. (NOTE: Emotional validation is the process of learning about, understanding and expressing acceptance of another person’s emotional)
- Listening to silence: Trust me, this is the most difficult one. Many times, I have heard the loud noise of silence which I tried to understand without listening to it. Sometimes, I don’t get to hear the person weeping or talking hyperactively or even shouting or venting at me but all he or she does is to remain absolutely quiet or silent… I become clueless yet, I try to invade into that silence and listen to it. All I can do is just notice as Aastha did about her sister. She noticed carefully to find the reasons behind her sister being dull and depressed. Though, I agree that this is possible when the bonding is strong. It is not easily done when two people are strangers to each other and doesn’t have much scope to see each other for a longer period. This is possible within a home scenario or between best friends etc. mostly. So, the more I listen to the silence of other people by noticing well, the more skilful I am. Noticing well is my response to someone’s silence.
Nevertheless, at times, I find myself very helpless when I am unable to listen and understand clearly about the person I care and do everything possible to listen to him or her. When someone doesn’t allow us to listen to him or her, it becomes difficult to listen. But I remind myself – God starts working from where I stop. Both Rajnandini and Avinash spoke about listening to God carefully as it is very necessary when we are weary and tired.
So, how do you respond when you have someone in front of you to listen carefully?
Keep thinking and keep reading…