On Learning to Listen

These last few months have been a hard journey of self-discovery and learning. A journey of improving over the person I was yesterday. One of the biggest traits that I have been working on is my ability to listen.

Let’s face it, most of us are terrible listeners. In fact, I barely listen at all. I might hear someone. I might feign listening, however, I often find that I am doing nothing more than readying myself for a rebuttal. Or a reciting of a relevant story that I have. I am not listening like I should be.

Then again, what the hell does it mean to listen?

For starters, listening is not patiently waiting for the other person to stop speaking so that you can say what you want to say. That’s a big one. Far too often that is where I not only see myself operating from, but many others as well.

In most cases, such as just mindless small-talk, doing that really isn’t a big deal. Or even gossip.

Then there’s debates or serious discussions. And I believe where we fall down there is that we get too locked up in our own belief structures, in what we feel should be happening, that we fail to consider any opposing viewpoints, or rather, any viewpoint that doesn’t ascribe to our way of thinking.

Or maybe we do consider them. However, because of our rigid mindset, we throw out the possibility of empathizing or relaying some compassion. We lock in on a preconceived notion rather than factoring an ulterior, more benign motive.

It’s difficult. It’s hard. The only true perspective we have is that of our own. The world is seen only through our two eyes, as imperfect and prone to misguidance as that perspective is.

I’ve been trying to break down that barrier to me. I’ve been trying to allow myself the time to put on new lenses to change my perspective enough that I experience something in what the person I am talking to is trying to say.

It is by far one of the most difficult things I’ve been doing for myself.

But as much as it is for me, I find that listening, really listening to someone, is often valued more than anything you could do for the other person.

I am seeing people desperate to tell their story and for someone to not only hear it, but to listen to it. To empathize. To share it.

Perhaps we should all give it a try. What would it hurt if we did?

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