Learning to Listen

"To listen well, we must attend both to the words and the silence between the words." 
--William Issacs in "A Matter of Spirit," the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center quarterly newsletter

Listening well is not easy, but it is a skill that can be developed with a willingness to learn and some practice.

One of the techniques crucial to being a good listener is shutting the hell up. Also known as pausing. It is easy to get on a roll during a conversation and forget to pause and listen to the other person.

This can be especially hard after asking a question. My husband takes a lot longer to answer a question than I do and it can sometimes be excruciating to wait (and wait....and wait....and wait....) for his answer. But it is important to do so.

If you think you may need practice, watch the video above and listen for the birdsong. If it is hard for you to wait to hear it, pausing during conversations with others may be an important skill for you to learn.

Pay more attention than usual during your conversations this week. Do you need to pause more often? If so, try adding a few pauses to the conversation and see how it changes.

Maybe it's the person you are speaking with who is challenged in this area. If so, find a kind way to ask them to shut the hell up once in awhile. (NB When asking someone KINDLY to "shut the hell up" it will be very important not to use the words, "shut the hell up.")

Have fun playing with this listening technique this week. Try not to take it too seriously - and don't take it personally if someone doesn't listen to you well. This usually has far more to do with them than it does with you!

Meditation is, of course, another great way to learn to pause. Sitting for ten or more minutes a day will help you practice the great art of shutting the hell up and also allow you to bring more presence to your conversations. If you would like to try, you can start with this meditation.

Have a great week!

ADDENDUM: In the time since I wrote this post I have learned about something called "Verbal Judo." It is used primarily by police officers to de-escalate highly charged situations, but can be used by all of us to improve our listening skills and our relationships. For more information on verbal judo, check out this blog post or read the book


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