Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog written for the Humanity Project by Linda Eve Diamond, author of 10 books.
Listening deeply to someone, no matter what our own beliefs, experiences, distractions or feelings may be, is an act of compassion. While the listener is giving this gift to the speaker, the listener is also receiving. Listening is a process of shared — and infinite — value. We all know first-hand how much it means for someone to listen when we need to be heard. If you listen to me, truly listen, I feel valued, cared about, and worthy of your attention. If I’m confused about what to do, just your being there and letting me express myself fully and openly might allow me to find the answer from within. If I’m excited, the good feelings will be amplified when I share with a caring listener (and could easily be deflated when I share with someone who isn’t paying attention). Listening has the power to boost excitement, reduce anxiety, change a mood, and may even save a life. As the listener, you are not only having a positive impact on someone else, you are cultivating a skill that is the basis for healthy, rewarding relationships and gaining a greater understanding of others — and maybe even of yourself.
The practice of listening can also help improve memory and may have some of the subtle, positive benefits of meditation. After all, this kind of listening is an act of being present and focusing attention. Listening is incredibly useful inner work for the listener, as it involves self awareness and the ability to overcome internal distractions. Beyond that, the listener is challenged by external distractions which are, for most of us, more numerous and pervasive than ever before. In our techno-centered culture, people-centered communication — free of interruptions and efforts to multi-task — is becoming more and more of a rarity. The result can be feelings of isolation, misunderstandings, and a society that loses something basic to humanity — we’re so “connected,” we may easily lose sight of the importance of real connections. By making the time to listen with care, you open the door to deep, meaningful communication, which is a win-win for everyone involved.
Linda Eve Diamond is the author of 10 books including Rule #1: Stop Talking: A Guide to Listening. She the recipient of two International Listening Association awards and the creator of a Website dedicated to listening skills, www.ListenersUnite.com. The author’s Website is http://LindaEveDiamond.com.