As a start, I needed to understand the difference between listening and hearing. Listening is defined by the Business dictionary as “mindfully hearing and attempting to comprehend the meaning of words spoken by another.” On the other hand, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines hearing as “perceiving sound; specifically… noises and tones received as stimuli”. Nancy Kline goes on further to say that listening ignites the thinking of the speaker by giving them one’s full authentic attention.
At SACAP I was able to experience listening first hand. As an exercise we each came up with a “challenge” and then spoke it through whilst one of our fellow classmates listened with their full attention. When I started, it felt like I was talking myself into a web. Suddenly there was this “A-ha” moment in which I realised the solution that was congruent to my value system. It became apparent that others interrupted me when I spoke which broke my train of thought.
This caused frustration, which brought my awareness to how I was doing the same to others. I would interrupt, ask questions and literally make myself anxious in the process. With practice, I learned that each time a thought popped into my head, instead of voicing it, it became a cue for me to refocus, and redirect my full attention back to the speaker. Exercising this, I had to push through my anxiety, trust their process and re-establish my boundaries of listening without taking on too much.
I learned that to really listen to others I have to listen to myself first. Listening intently to my own needs without allowing my inner critic to enter the space, I realised that I have the answers within.
My existential anxiety is an active force / energy that drives me forwards. It fuels me to act, sometimes interrupting others keeping things in motion, giving me purpose and meaning in my daily life. Therefore, I’ve learned to be mindful of allowing others enough space to ensure that they have completed their thinking without me jumping straight in to have my say.
In Part 3 of this post I will discuss how I personally have cultivated the art of listening.