The Power Of Listening
I think I have written enough about what might be hiding behind our emotions, how we might manage them, the various positions we take towards them etc.
In this article I want to discuss a very important act for every form of human communication, the act of listening. It is the first skill taught in psychotherapy and counselling training programmes and general ly in the helping professions.
I chose (consciously or unconsciously) to study it in my degree as part of communications but also I studied it in various other seminars related to the jobs I was working with people. Nevertheless, I do not write as any expert but as a person with a specific experience.
Most of the communication between people happens at a non-verbal level. We receive information from the posture, how the other looks, what moves he makes, etc.
Speech comes later, complementary or explanatory (or even contradictory) to convey the message of communication. Man has succeeded in evolving and creating civilisations because he began to produce thought and speech and,thus, he was able to reflect and express himself through it.
The skill or act of listening to someone is one of the first things that happens when we come in contact with a person and start conversing with them. Having already collected (automatically) information from how he speaks, the tone of the voice, the movements etc, we understand what he wants to say, if he is telling the truth, if he believes what he says etc. always in relation to the context in which a conversation occurs.
Then we, depending on our experiences, intentions, expectations and circumstances, receive the message and process it in order to respond in some way (I believe that the non-response or withdrawal are forms of response).
I think we can all, to a greater or lesser extent, distinguish whether a conversation is successful or not (regardless of its outcome), if the sender conveys a clear message and the receiver receives it as such. Actually listening to the other is not always as easy as the many fights due to difficulties in communication for both the sender and receiver prove.
Thinking about what it means for someone to be a good listener, I thought of two main things.
The first is to be open to receive and the second to allow ourselves to be affected.
By the first I mean to remain available to receive any message, even if we do not like what we hear. Receiving the message with 'clear ear' without interfering with information from previous conversations, other information that may disrupt the flow of the exchange or emotional situations that may 'block our ears' even temporarily.
It's like waiting to receive a letter, but our mailbox is full or when the doorbell rings and we are in the bathroom and we can not hear it.
It is understandable that the receiver will not regard the communication as successful and can withdraw from it or choose to continue repeating what was said.
The second condition has to do with a deeper level; how much we can allow a message to touch us. It is as someone throws a pebble into the sea and immediately turns his back without seeing the result of this action, whether it created circles on the surface of the sea or went straight to its bottom etc. Allowing a message to touch us, it's like letting the meaning behind it find its place within us. Clearly, some messages are simple functional information and need no further time or processing. For more complex contacts, however, we may need this time, attention and intention (if of course we want) to really feel what has been said, in the same way that the observation of stone that immerses in the sea can give us a sense completion and fulfilment of our act.
Sometimes we hear something which may disturb us, so we can react without hearing it deeply enough to see how it was actually said or what it might really mean to us.
Other times we may hear something, such as a good word and not let it in to touch us.
Sometimes we might hear something and not understand exactly what the other person wants to say, and instead of asking for clarification, we can speculate on what the person might mean, so we answer based on what we think he said.
Any 'communication event' (in this case verbal), if done truthfully, contains meaning and each one of us expresses his truth. It captures what we feel, what we think, what we want to show to the other and the world, what we may be processing and is not yet concluded, what we want and hope.
In such acts we essentially externalise and leaving on the other's 'ears' a part of our soul and what it constitutes from. We reveal our inner landscapes and builds. We expose our deepest secrets.
Listening to the other with openness, respect and willingness to understand is like feeling the other and seeing what he wants to connect about and what exactly he needs and maybe we can learn something new about ourselves.
It's like we are the sea that receives a feather in calm water, as opposed to accepting it with its nails.
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