Hearing is one of our natural senses. It is the process of absorbing the sounds around us, and there is always some sound going on for our ears to catch, from the backing up of trash trucks, to the birds chirping, to the wisp of a flame, and even your own breathe.
Take a moment, 15 seconds or so, to quiet your mind and hear to the world around you…
What do you notice?
Very quickly, you’ll move from passively hearing the world to actively listening to it. Listening is hearing with purpose. It is intent driven, and with it, we are able to gain wisdom, grow our emotional intelligence, and connect with others on a truly deeper level. In truly listening, we are able to empathize with others. In listening, we are able to remedy conflict and ultimately grow our joyfulness.
What is Listening
Listening is more than just taking in the sounds around us. It is the conscious connection between the mind and the sense of hearing, rather than the unconscious connection, which allows sounds to register in the mind, but not take root. One can be “engaged” in hearing without truly listening; you can face the subject, hear what they have to say, and still not understand or still not fully grasp the message. (Almost everyone who has been in a relationship knows this feeling – when the other person appears to be hearing you, but not listening to what it is you’re actually saying.)
And this is the true dichotomy between hearing and listening: an authentic, sincere attentiveness that drives understanding.
Too often, we grow up in environments that develop poor patterns of communication, usually due to the lack of emphasis on truly listening to one another. The root of thousands of conflicts comes from this phenomenon of hearing, but not listening. We are even encouraged to digest information while also actively thinking about it, analytically, in our minds. While this enables us to perhaps better speak about the subject in the moment, it ultimately detracts from our ability to understand the subject matter and retain it.
This is sometimes considered as the difference between thinking with your head and thinking with your heart, and one example is when The Hopi Tribe in Arizona once famously told psychologist Carl Jung, ‘We think the white man is crazy, because they think with their head.’ Jung replied, ‘Well, yes. How do you think?’ The chief replied, ‘We think with our heart.’
The Hopi’s note here was because of their practice of listening. The Hopi would sit in council, a circle around a fire, and they would pass a talking piece around the to each member. They would share stories, on hunting, gathering, and the stars, and it was the job of the rest of intently listen.
When we invoke this style of communication, we invoke the practice of thinking with the heart. We open our minds to the lessons and words to others.
The Joy of Listening
What comes from this is truly a sensation of joy and understanding. Internally, we seek that “Ah ha!” moment, when we are able to fully grasp an idea or feeling expressed by a person. Externally, when we reach greater understandings with each other, we too feel a similar feeling to the “Ah ha!” moment – the feeling that we are finally ‘on the same page,’ so to speak.
Try creating an environment similar to the council in your business, schooling, or relationship. Take time to intently listen to each other, without thought of hierarchy past the talking stick. Allow your feelings, thoughts, and emotion to come forth. Recognize them, discuss them, and allow them to exist in a place free from right or wrong doing. From here, an unbelievable sense of communication can be achieved, and joy follows.