"Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."
[1 Samuel 3:9]
Communication is the most important skill in life. We spend most of our waking hours communicating. The four basic types of communication are reading, writing, speaking and listening. The ability to do them well is absolutely critical to our effectiveness. We've spent years learning how to read and write, years learning how to speak. But what about listening? What training or education have we had that enables us to listen so that we really, deeply understand another human being from that individual's own frame of reference?
Unless I open up with you, unless you understand me and my unique situation and feelings, you won't know how to advise or counsel me. What you say is good and fine, but it doesn't quite pertain to me. You may say you care about and appreciate me. I desperately want to believe that. But how can you appreciate me when you don't even understand me? All I have are your words, and I can't trust words. Unless you're influenced by my uniqueness, I'm not going to be influenced by your advice.
"Seek first to understand" involves a very deep shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply. They're either speaking or preparing to speak. They're filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people's lives. This phrase, "That person just doesn't understand." - we've used that too frequently. *You used that, I used that and Goofy used that the most*
Our conversations become collective monologues, and we never really understand what's going on inside another human being. When another person speaks, we're usually "listening" at one of four levels.
Ignoring and pretending
Not really listening at all except for the intermittent reply of "OIC", "Uh-huh" and "Right". I've never used that in any of our conversations but I have to admit with some other people, whenever I'm really NOT into that conversation, I'll use those to end the conversation quickly or to make the other person realize that I've no intention to go any deeper into that particular conversation.
He who answers before listening - that is his folly and his shame.
Hearing only certain parts of the conversation. Parts that get our attention. Parts that make us happy and lifting to the spirit. Praises. Then when it comes to correction of our mistakes, we're quick enough to shut both ears and point our fingers back at the person by asking, "Who do you think you are? Are you any better than I am? A pot calling a kettle black."
Paying full attention and focusing energy on the words that are being said but without understanding the meaning of those words spoken out loud.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
The highest form of listening. Listening with intent to understand, to really understand. Gets inside another person's frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way they see the world, understand their paradigm and understand how they feel. Empathy is NOT sympathy. The essence of empathic listening is not that you agree with someone but you fully, deeply, understand that person, emotionally as well as intellectually. Listen with your ears, your eyes and with your heart. Listen for feeling, not meaning. Listen for behaviour. You sense, you intuit, you feel. It's a tremendous deposit in the Emotional Bank Account.
Whether you realise it or not, we already have a joint Emotional Bank Account. I will not close that account and I know you won't close it, too. Refute my statement if you think I'm wrong.