In One Ear and Out The Other

In the early 70's I did contract work for the Department of Labor, evaluating surveys completed by thousands of US workers, identifying areas of employee concern and satisfaction. What employees complained about then has not changed. One recurring theme has remained with me. Folks want to be heard.
Most of us feel pretty confident that when we listen, we're listening, but using myself as an example, I've discovered that active listening requires getting our egos out of the way so we can hear both what is being said internally and what is being said, externally. In fact, listening with an intention to hear strengthens our awareness of what is being inferred, what is not being said, etc.
How do we learn to listen? My lesson came when one of my first coaching clients, Eva, was dying of pancreatic cancer. One afternoon I went over to her house to visit. I was in the doing mode. It took me a little while to realize there was nothing to do other than to sit with her, to be with her. That was a bit scary (for me) because she was dying. In fact, my anxiety mixed with guilt and restlessness fatigued us both.
She just wanted me to sit with her. Even listening became something not to do; rather I gave myself permission to sit and relax. In those few hours, I learned what it meant to listen in a sloppy, sort of unavailable way. The correction I made required intention and compassion, for her and for myself.
Even when I thought nothing was happening because neither of us talked, we were listening to each other. The more I let go of what I thought needed to happen, the stronger the connection between us.
There was vitality to our listening that infused the air leaving us feeling renewed, relaxed, refreshed.
This week pay attention to how you listen. Be kind to yourself when you notice your mind wandering off or disengaging from the other person. Bring your awareness to what the person needs. Then give with all your heart.

Posted on July 23, 2013 and filed under July 2013.