Active listening is so much more than just hearing the words that someone has to
say. Hearing the person behind the words allows us to feel heard. If we don’t feel
heard, we worry if our words matter. We might wonder if we matter to the listener or
if we have been understood correctly. Not being heard leaves us feeling empty at
best and disrespected at worst. We tend to repeat ourselves. We are sometimes told
“I heard you the first time.” This creates a disconnection under the guise of
connection. Technically we have been listened to but our relational needs have not
been met. It can take a few moments to work this out and we may falter as to know
how to respond to such statements.
Active listening is about hearing the words as well as acknowledging the person
speaking them. This requires us to clear our own mind, pause from our activity, gaze
upon the speaker and momentarily suspend our judgements as they speak. This
type of listening is called heart listening where our full attention is on someone and
our own thoughts are in lockdown.
As our workplaces and lifestyles seem intent on speeding up, it leaves less time to
spend on an activity like active listening. As technology incessantly blinks and beeps
at us, active listening may be under real threat of extinction.
Active listening is a skill taught in most workplaces and thankfully now in
kindergartens. Active listening groups are becoming more common where people
can experience the act of being listened to and in return, improve their capacity to
actively listen to others.
We all brush over other people’s words at times. We rush in with our own comments,
fail to ask questions or stay with their story long enough before adding in a story of
our own. This is part of the hurly burly of conversation and does no damage unless
this way of listening becomes our norm.
As we grapple to accept the presence of the pandemic and make sense of the loss it
is causing in our lives, let us give someone the gift of being actively listened to and
let us be renewed by receiving it.