I have always been a great admirer of skilled listeners. While many people are enamored with talented orators, it is the active and compassionate listener that always gets my attention. You see, most people are not good listeners. Most people wait to speak. We are frequently hijacked by our thoughts and the desire to respond. While others are talking, we spend our mental energy formulating our advice, our judgments, how to express our interpretation of what they are saying, or how we want to relate it to our own experiences. When this happens, as it so often does, our ability to listen atrophies.
The attached video on compassionate listening, featuring Thich Nhat Hanh, is a powerful reminder of how listening can give way to transformative healing. Thich Nhat Hanh tells us that when we truly listen, and suspend our need to respond or judge, we allow others to release their suffering. When suffering is released, our reflex to judge converts to compassion. In our moment of stillness, that moment of compassion, we connect in a profound, human way. This type of listening can restore even the most damaged relationships.
In my personal life, I have found that active listening allows me to know people I love in a deeper way. In my professional life, compassionate listening aids me in building an immediate trust with clients and is vital to facilitating the healing process. One of my favorite unintentional consequences of active listening is how it helps me to escape one of the more annoying manifestations of my food addiction – the obsessive food thoughts.
With all the benefits that compassionate listening has to offer, it is a worthwhile skill to develop and hone. Start noticing your wandering mind as you converse with others and bring your attention back to what they are saying. Keep training your mind to do this and you are on the road to becoming a gifted listener.