One of the most important aspects of our lives is our relationships. Everything we desire including love, friendship, happiness, well-being and wealth depends on our relationships. If we are to enhance the quality of our relationships then we must cultivate the most important skill there is: the art of listening.
In our modern society where there are so many distractions, the subtle art of listening has been lost. We seem to be more connected to each other through the internet, social media, video chat and smart phones which allow us to enjoy these media. However, we are also more distracted than we ever were as a result of this same technology.
Because of all the distractions that pervade our daily lives, our attention spans have been shortened as well as the quality of our listening skills. How often are you in conversation with someone before you get a text, an email notification or a call on your smart phone? Then you feel you need to respond to that text or email which distracts you from the conversation you were in.
Listening is a skill that has diminished over time and is especially worse for our children’s generation that are exposed to the modern technology of smart phones, tablets, laptops and video games at a young age. In fact, attention deficit disorder is on the rise and likely to continue to do so as our technology becomes more advanced and more accessible.
So how do you cultivate this important and subtle skill that so few people seem to have? The first thing is that when you are engaged in conversation with someone you need to remove all your distractions, which in this day and age means your smart phone. You should put your smart phone away, however, if you feel that you may get an important phone call or text, at least keep it on silent or vibrate.
When you are talking with someone you should face them and make direct eye contact with them. This shows them that you are interested and engaged. Your whole attention should be focused on the person you are talking with unless you have to deal with an emergency.
You need to pay attention to the other person’s body language and mannerisms because this can be more revealing than simply words alone. 90% of our communication is said to be non-verbal. Whether they are leaning into you, have their arms crossed across their chest or are focused elsewhere instead on what you’re saying, body language reveals to you more about what the other person is thinking and feeling than their words alone do.
You need to listen with your heart. Try to, not only listen to what the other person is saying, but feel what they are saying. Listen for subtle cues in their tone, their emphasis on certain words, their facial expressions and their general demeanor. You will get so much more information by opening your heart to the other person, not in a romantic way, but in a receptive way.
Lastly, you should listen attentively with your ears to the words they are saying. Instead of waiting for them to finish their last sentence so you can respond, truly pay attention to each and every word that comes out of their mouth as if it is their last. This quality of listening will improve your communication with anyone who you engage with. Anyone who you talk with will truly feel heard and acknowledged.
By cultivating the art of listening as I’ve described above, you will improve the quality of your romantic, personal and professional relationships, be more effective and efficient at work, increase your overall happiness and well-being, decrease your stress and increase your chances of success in anything that you do.
During this holiday season, when you are socializing with family and friends, practice listening more deeply than you every have, as I’ve described, and see how the quality of your life transforms.
Nauman Naeem MD