Listening is an art that can be learned. Few are born with it. When we truly listen to another person we are developing a skill that serves our highest interest. The ability to listen without getting caught up in our own thoughts and agendas opens the door to the gifts of curiosity and presence. Listening is more than hearing, we hear sounds in an impartial way but we do not choose to interact with them, we react. A sudden sound might generate some fear. When we listen, we choose to interact, to allow, to welcome and to be present for what another is saying.
When listening, interference can show up in certain ways. Figuring out how to respond, conditioned by a survival agenda, to be seen as virtuous, attentive, sensitive or witty, or to make a show of deep understanding as proof of listening in the face of its opposite. We may be occupied with our own thoughts, “What’s for dinner, what did I forget, who will feed the cat”? Or our own story might impose itself within the others story. You hear speeding ticket and you start thinking of the time you got a ticket. This is not listening either.
Real listening is not about our own thoughts or our own selves, it involves receiving freely, we allow, we welcome, we are present. As we listen without imposing expectations on ourselves, we can take a vacation from the need to control, judge or manage. We can be actively present, creating safety and permission. We don’t have to ritualise our response, we don’t have to know the answer. We can be curious, let the other tell us what they need. We don’t have to interpret or telepathize. As we learn to listen to others we learn how to listen to ourselves in the same way, without judging, interpreting or controlling, giving ourselves the compassion and gentleness we would show another.