“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” This quote from Stephen R. Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change) describes succinctly the problem most people have when communicating. Most courses and trainings refer to ‘active listening’ as a desirable practice, yet it teaches people to listen to the words, the content, and then repeat it back to the speaker.
In contrast, deep listening as I understand it is listening for the meaning behind the words, is listening for the feeling that the words are pointing it. In a way, it is listening with a sense or curiosity WITHOUT checking with our own mind whether it makes sense to us, we can relate to it, whether it is stupid/reckless/naive to name just a few examples. If we would listen that way (checking with our own mind) we would only listen to our own thoughts about something and not to the other person.
I remember one day when my daughter who was then about 4 years old was very upset with me. She left little notes saying: “I hate you” everywhere, on the table, on the cook top, on cups and plates, in the bathroom, on the floor, on my bed. I could have punished her for being disrespectful or misbehaving, but thankfully I didn’t. I sat down with her and said: “You seemed very upset, please tell mummy what you are upset about”. She could tell me what she was upset about and we had a good talk about it that ended with a big hug.
Deep listening or compassionate listening means taking yourself out of the equation. It wasn’t important how I felt (…”how dare she talk to me like that…”). Instead I wanted to understand what is happening for her that upset her so much. The outcome was that she felt understood, cared for, and respected.
You can prompt your mind to listen deeply by
- Becoming aware of a negative feeling in you that indicates you are judgemental or critical – this means you are not listening from the heart but to your own interpretations of what you think you hear.
- Don’t wait to give the other person your opinion or jump in with telling your story (… that’s like what happened to me….) but be curious about how the other person views his/her experience. How did they come to feel the way they do, how do they make sense out of things.
- Don’t listen to the spoken words but get a sense of the feeling the other person is pointing at.
If you want to learn more about deep listening and experience it first hand, join me on my next one day seminar THE 3 PRINCIPLES: THE POWER OF HAPPINESS on 4 August 2013. Go here for more information and booking your place