By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor
Have you ever felt like everyone has lost their hearing? Your colleague presents a fabulous idea during a team meeting – only it’s the same idea you presented weeks ago. Your boss adds you to a conference call – on exactly the same day you requested personal time off. Your spouse brings home the wrong dog food – again.
It’s likely their hearing is just fine. It’s their listening they’re losing.
I’ve yet to find a reputable study demonstrating a demise of our listening skills, but certainly our always-on, attention-fragmented society would suggest that listening – not just hearing – is getting harder to do.
And given the volume of articles, videos and other how-tos for improving our listening skills, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking we all need a serious tuning.
The common tips for improving our listening skills are typically bundled under “active listening” and include the following:
- Maintain eye contact.
- Ask clarifying questions.
- Summarize what the speaker says.
- Focus more on what the speaker says, rather than your response.
I don’t discount any of these tips; indeed, simply talking less – whether out loud or in our own heads – when we’re supposed to be listening would do wonders for our conversational abyss.
But I’d like to propose we get out of our heads and into our bodies when it comes to listening. True listening requires greater presence – of our whole being. If we truly want to “actively listen” we need to bring on as much physical energy as mental energy.
Imagine listening to your favorite music. Certainly your head is active – especially if, like me, you pay a lot of attention to lyrics – but your body is also engaged. Your heart syncs with the musical beat, your energy lifts, you might sway – or all out dance. With music, you feel it as much as you hear it.
What if we felt the words our boss, colleagues or spouse said? What if – like music – their words were palpable and we took them in with our guts and hearts as well as our minds? What if we felt their words in our hands and feet as much as in our heads?
True listening requires this holistic presence of mind and body. And it applies to all conversations – whether it’s over strategy with a colleague or dinner plans with your spouse. Just try to hear and feel the music in all they say.