Active listening is an art. It involves not thinking of the next thing you’re going to say, planning tonight’s meal, or judging the person talking for having spinach in their teeth. In short, it’s really being present. When someone is heard in that way, they blossom.
Initially, it’s a weird feeling to have someone focus on you in totality. This is true in our multi-tasking, overstimulated world more than ever. It can make you self-conscious, even though it’s something we secretly long for. “Am I important enough to deserve your full attention?” All too often, from childhood to the present, the answer is “no.”
As children, we transform the distracted parent into a feeling of unworthiness and we’re off and running to a life of compensating for what’s “wrong with me.” In truth, there was never anything wrong, just an inability of our parents and subsequent others, to still themselves long enough to really listen.
The non-verbal cues of listening are eye contact and frontal body presence. The face needs to reflect what is being said. Questions and comments show that the listener is engaged. If the cell phone rings, it’s ignored because the person who is present in the flesh is the one to whom we are listening. Basic, but ever more novel in our overloaded days.
A person can’t feel loved if they aren’t listened to. A person won’t feel loved if we don’t pay attention to them. This is true, even though we may do many great things out of view or have generally good intentions. Nothing replaces face-to-face attention. We get much too little of it.
Do you think you’d like to change this in your own life? Remind yourself that the person who is present is the most important person in the world. Then listen with an open heart and a quiet mind. Let me know what happens next…