The Importance of Listening

Isn’t it strange how we now have more communication devices than ever before in history, but we hardly communicate with each other in person any more? Everyone has their eyes glued to a computer screen, their phone or tablet now. I find it so very odd to see everyone on break at work, each one lost in their own shiny screen. We are all alone in a crowd of people. I really enjoy talking to people, and seeing their facial expressions, hearing the inflections of their tone of voice. It is so much better than a text! Don’t get me wrong, I do text and use electronics as much as everyone else does, but I miss the days when people really talked with one another more.

In Thich Nhat Hanh’s book “Teachings on Love” he talks about the importance of really listening to each other. He says that “to develop true communication skills, we need to practice the art of deep listening and loving or kind speech daily.” He goes on to explain how the lack of true communication between people leads to loneliness, isolation, and suffering. On the large-scale of society a lack of real communication leads to conflicts, protests and wars over our disagreements.

As the Vietnamese say, “It doesn’t cost anything to have loving speech.” “We only need to choose our words carefully and we can make other people very happy.” “The way we speak and listen can offer others joy, happiness, self-confidence, hope, trust, and enlightenment.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh offers  some great ideas on communicating with each other over differences. One suggestion he offers if a family member says something that offends you, is to first calm yourself by mindfully focusing on your breathing. When you feel calm, explain to them that what they said hurt your feelings. Let them know you will be looking deeply into the matter and considering it. Ask them to do the same as well. Then set a special time a few days out to sit together calmly and discuss the matter.

He says that to meditate on the nature of your suffering, and of the reasons for the situation at hand calmly prior to the discussion, will help you both to better resolve the matter. While each person is speaking, listen carefully and deeply to what they are saying. Do not interrupt or think about what you want to say. Fully consider their thoughts and feelings about the matter as you listen to them. When it is your turn to express how you feel, or to ask questions if needed about what they expressed, they are more likely to give you the same courtesy of listening deeply to what you have to say.

You can make it a pleasant time, and have some tea or snacks as you talk to help you both relax and listen to each other.  Remember also to use kind loving speech, and the deepest truth that you can express. The goal is to present your case in a way the other person can understand and accept without feeling defensive.

If either of you begin to feel angry and upset again, it is best to take time to calm down. Focus on your breathing momentarily. Once calm, suggest rescheduling if need be. Getting angry and yelling at each other will never solve our disagreements or misunderstandings. Only calm reflective dialogue, with questions to clarify points as needed and deep reflective listening can help resolve our disagreements.

You communicate your truth, but in a gentle and loving way, so the other person can understand and accept your thoughts far more easily.

A similar technique I learned in Management training years ago, was to deliver any constructive criticism need for employees, sandwiched between two positive encouraging statements.

Example. “I really like how well you communicate with our customers. I feel you can do much better on your product knowledge however, and I am going to help you train further on these skills. Again, I am very pleased with your attentive customer service! You are becoming an excellent member of our team here!”

When constructive criticism is sandwiched with praise or positive reinforcement on what the person is doing well at, the constructive criticism is easier to bear, and far better received. I also included my offer to help improve through training in my example.

When people communicate, we need to keep in mind also that even though we may be doing our best to explain our point of view, we are all but blind people touching a very large elephant. Each person will have their own view about the elephant depending on what part of it they experienced. To solve the perspective dilemma, we need to listen deeply, and communicate with kindness and respect for one another. When we practice communicating kindly and listening deeply, we will be far more likely to understand each other. Understanding is the key to creating the best relationships both at home and work, or anywhere you may be.

Thank you for listening here to my thoughts and ideas! I really appreciate you!

Namaste, until next time.




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