How To Listen

Listening is one of the most important skills one can cultivate, however, it is also one of the most difficult to master. When we are infants and children it is our parents and extended family that look after our needs as we are not yet independent enough to meet them ourselves.

As we grow older, we start to realize that the world does not revolve around us and that our relationships with those close to us are a two way street and depend on give and take. There are situations in which this realization does not occur. One such situation is that of early childhood trauma.

When we suffer early childhood trauma, whether it is major, such as physical or sexual abuse, or minor such as divorce of our parents or mental illness or addiction in a parent, the world suddenly becomes a scary place. In such situations, all we can focus on is ourselves because our basic survival and emotional needs are not ye met.

When we suffer through situations in which it becomes difficult to focus on anyone but ourselves because of fear, it affects our ability to listen. On the other hand, if we grow up in a loving, nurturing and empowering environment, we have a direct experience of the importance of our relationship to others.

If we are shown the love and compassion we desire and need as children, we will cultivate self worth and self respect and will be able to show the same to others who we encounter. We will also develop our listening skills as we will value others as we value ourselves.

The question then arises how does one learn to listen deeply to others when they have had a difficult upbringing in which they may have suffered various degrees of trauma and were not raised in a loving and caring environment? They key is cultivating self-love.

You see, you cannot be there for anyone else unless you are there for yourself and this can be measured by the degree of self love that you have. Self love is not meant to be selfish and aggrandize your ego. Self love means to value who you are, not only as a human being in relation to others, but as a creative expression of God, Nature, the Universe or whatever you believe in.

Once you begin to get a glimpse of who you truly are, you can have a direct experience of your your self worth and intrinsic value and, from this place, you can cultivate self love and compassion. Once you are able to come from a place of self love and compassion, you will be able to relate to others from this place and become a true, selfless listener.

In my next article, I will discuss how we begin to cultivate self love to better relate to and listen to others.

Nauman Naeem MD


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