Empathy is the heart and soul of good listening.
Or actually not listening.
I attempted to communicate with two people this past week. I was heard by both of them but I wasn’t listened to.
Hearing is simply perceiving sound with your ears. If you are not a hearing impaired person, hearing is experiencing the world with your ears.
Listening is a choice. You consciously choose to listen and your brain processes the meaning of the words someone is speaking.
You could say that hearing is practical and listening is strategic, like an action plan to accomplish a common goal. As with most goals you’ve got some choices about how you are going to listen.
There’s appreciative listening—the kind of listening when you enjoy someone’s telling of a story, going to see your favorite band, watching a TED talk, going to hear a special lecture on ornithology, if that’s a topic of interest for you.
How about really listening. The kind of listening where you turn off the TV, put down the cell phone, close your laptop, put the veggies on simmer or stop petting the cat.
This is the sort of listening where you’re not multi-tasking, which includes not thinking about what you’re going to say, how you’re going to respond, or what sort of advice you’re going to give.
Real listening is empathy, getting out of ego, feeling compassion and tuning into the person who’s speaking. It’s not a competition of your story being more interesting or better, or wanting to identify with the speaker, it’s not about being smarter because you can actually pronounce the word or remember the exact moment of an event. It’s not about fixing someone, problem solving or taking care of anyone.
Really listening to someone else is strange because nothing really changes on the outside. However the person being listened to feels better on the inside, where you can’t see. There is magic when someone really listens to me.
As the listener you just might hear things that are hard for someone to talk about and even harder to hear.
In short, listening is that is the pure joy of one human being connecting with another.