Short course in listening

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

Listening is an art, a gift to another, of love and care.

If you try it, even if you don’t do it too well, you will be offering another person an act of love, warmth, and care. If you embark on learning this seemingly endangered art form you will have many opportunities to practice. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t want to be heard and there are many who have never had the privilege.

Of course you will never break a confidence except under legally required circumstances.

Preparation:

• Turn off your cell phone and thinking about it.

• Imagine you have a smartphone screen in your head and slide your inner-mode settings from “self-focus” to “other-focus.”

• Whisper preparation thoughts like, “this is not about me; I will offer my full attention; I will listen a lot and speak very little; I will resume my life soon but now it’s time to listen and be present.”

When face-to-face:

• Aim your ears, eyes, heart, your body, actually your every corpuscle, in the direction of the person to whom you are listening. This takes concentration.

• Allow silence. Quell your instinct to jump-start the conversation. Forget time.

• Offer no interruptions or anecdotes even if they are related to shared content. Speak only to request clarification and to invite the speaker to go deeper or to tell you more.

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