Listening is a lost art.
In my past life I wasn’t a good listener. I would be in a conversation with someone and when they said something I wanted to reply to, I would start gathering my thoughts in my head. Then, when there was a pause, and sometimes there wasn’t a pause, I would interrupt them verbally with my thoughts.
The entire time I was gathering those thoughts, I wasn’t listening to a word they said.
It wasn’t until I was in therapy and going to a Yoga Teacher Training that I began to learn that listening is an art and like any good art, it takes practice.
So I began to practice listening. It was really hard. I so wanted to jump in and interrupt with my thoughts. I was sure my words and opinions were far more important than the words of who ever I was talking to.
So I had to bite my tongue a few times.
It hurt, and sometimes there was blood. But over time and with practice, I got better at listening, and really hearing what the other person was saying.
As my listening got easier, I began to honor my own curiosity by asking questions. Not because I was nosy but because I wanted to learn what made the relationship I was gaining tick. What I learned from others and how the conversations began to morph and shift was eye opening. Instead of one person talking over the other, each person was allowed space to hear, then speak. The conversations went back and forth, each respecting the opinion of the other. Not always agreeing, but honoring the words that created the story of how each of our beliefs are formed.
This was a new way of living for me. I began to feel like I was really getting to know and understand my friends through hearing their stories, thoughts and learning about their lives and how they became who they are.
Hearing what they had to say and learning new perspectives created a feeling of intimacy I never knew could exist in new relationships. New experiences began to open as I started to live in a world seen through the eyes of the people I heard.
As time went on, I noticed some changes in the relationships that surrounded me. They began to shift and morph…
Friends who had been like the old me, always competing for air space in conversations, began to fade away. I no longer had the energy or desire to stay in my head thinking of what to say or being interrupted by the words they deemed so important. This freedom cleared my mind, slowed me down and left me open and free to be more engaged in the present conversation. Friends who never asked my thoughts began to fade. I no longer wanted to hang out with people who only wanted to fill the air with inane gossip, judgements of others, and stories of their dogs poop.
I didn’t really know who these people were. I was only presented with the outward appearance they wanted me to see.
These weren’t relationships. They felt like relay races.
Life got more interesting. My friend base changed. I got asked out more, invited to more events and evenings with friends. My relationships grew in meaning.
Listening gave me time. Time to pause, slowing down so I could learn. Slowing down often created what I once considered to be awkward silence. Instead, this became space for thoughtful communication.
More importantly, as I quieted down so I could hear, the more I learned from others. The more I learned, the more my self confidence grew. This new found confidence gave me the courage to step out into the world, knowing I could hold my own space where life evolved around me. I didn’t feel the need to control conversation and fill the air with wasted vowels. Instead, I let conversations shift and move only when there was the need for worthwhile words.
Talking all the time only told others what I already knew. Listening allowed me the ability to learn more and converse more effectively. When an opinion was different than mine, I got to ask them to explain, and often I learned a completely different perspective. A perspective I wouldn’t have known had I kept talking over people. It didn’t mean I had to agree with them, but it gave me pause to consider how the lives of others are different than mine and were formed from different circumstances.
Now when I choose to talk, I will be speaking from a place of wisdom instead of filling empty space with careless syllables.
Talking just fills the air.
Listening is learning.