If you’re a fan and regular reader of Mark Nepo’s inspiring daily reader, The Book of Awakening, you may have read his October 26th entry on “The Effort to Listen.” It was, like many of his entries, perfectly timed and filled with powerful messages I needed to hear. A few highlights:
- “We all suffer, at times, from the effort…to fix or advise rather than to listen [which is] the first duty of love…
- “When I have truly listened in my life…it is receiving [the other person’s] simple truths that has made me a better man…
- ‘To truly listen is to risk being changed forever.”
The wise truths found in Nepo’s writing touched me both as an “ahhh” and as an “ouch.” To put it simply, being patient enough to listen (rather than to jump in and talk) isn’t always easy. But it can often be a very powerful experience. I have found this to be true, both in my everyday conversations and in the work I do as a consultant, presenter, and workshop facilitator. When I’ve taken time to listen, even when I’m certain that what the other person is saying won’t be important or will drag on and have no point, I am often surprised. And, I confess, I have made miscalculations here. As a result, I (and others present) probably lost out on some precious stories or priceless bits of wisdom.
The bottom line, when everyone who wishes to be heard has the chance to be heard, amazing things can happen. And haven’t you noticed that the best listeners also happen to be some of the most charming, interesting, and wise people you know. Coincidence? (Perhaps that’s why we love our pets so much: they are such good listeners!)
My challenge to you (and to me) today is to take a little extra time to listen to what others have to say. Better yet, let’s launch at least one friendly conversation. Offer a greeting and ask a question that might unearth something you need to hear, allow a story to be told, or reveal a profound thought that needs to be expressed. Maybe we can even be bold enough to say the three words that people today so rarely hear: “Tell me more…”
I can’t wait to hear what happens and how it impacts you and your day.
What are you up to this weekend? [Insert time for me to listen / read your response here.] I’ll be facilitating a workshop for a group of hand-picked association leaders and leaders-to-be. We’ll be covering several topics related to being a better, more “true,” and more meaningfully-connected person, professional, and leader. I can’t wait! I’d love the opportunity to put together an impactful presentation, program, or workshop for your and your team in 2020. Let’s talk soon and dream something up that will be a perfect fit for your organization or event.
Love this line Patti: The wise truths found in Nepo’s writing touched me both as an “ahhh” and as an “ouch.” Intentional listening is akin to being fully present, a gift that is in rare form these days.
Thanks so much, Sara! Appreciate the kind words and profound thought of how rare true presence is today. I so agree! Working on it!
I am so glad I took “one minute” to read your post today Patti, as too often I think I don’t have time – an unrealized learning opportunity.
Not that many years ago I had the epiphany that I was spending time when others were talking, drafting the next brilliant thing I would say, never fulling absorbing potentially valuable information, sometimes not even waiting for them to finish their thoughts, and not waiting to hear what other people might add to the conversation. The art of listening is indeed valuable, so with that, I will now shut up and listen! XOXO SueAnn
Hello SueAnn! Thanks for your comment and insights. You concisely captured something many of us do. Sometimes I think we communicators feel a natural “need” to be the ones who come up with the next response, quip, bit of wisdom, or question for discussion. We forget that talking is only half of the communication process. Perhaps we can relax our talking muscles a bit and strengthen up our listening muscles. I am so guilty of what you describe! I love your phrase of what we lose out on: “never fulling absorbing potentially valuable information.” I began working on this today!
For me, “trying to understand” is the most important part of my “listening”. It’s not just hearing. It often leads me to ask simple questions, that show that I’m really turned toward the other person, and involved in what they are saying, and interested in them. In every conversation I learn how decisions were made, or how someone reacted to another person or situation, or how they analyzed a situation. I save that information for the living of my own life. And I get to know someone better in the process, at a more meaningful level. They will remember the conversation, and me, as will I, them.
Hello Wayne! Appreciate this thoughtful and inspiring comment. Listening to understand, to get below the surface, to reach a more meaningful level of connection, and to get to know someone so much better are powerful and endearing practices.