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Receiving someone else’s world through their words

Interestingly, the fact that someone can hear does not mean they can actually listen. If we are interested in deeper connections with the people in our lives, learning how to listen is key.

The Art of Listening can become our daily mindfulness practice to deepen connection and improve relationships.

I used to take my natural skill in embodied presence and deep listening for granted, until I realized that it’s not a given. It is an art, or a gift to be able to listen and to be fully present with someone while they speak. For some people it seems really hard to ‘just’ listen. They cannot soften enough to actually let in someone else’s world. Any keyword suffices for them to interrupt and pull the conversation back to them. Others are able to remain silent while listening, but are busy thinking about their response and so are unable to fully take in what is said.

The thing is, true listening is the bedrock of meaningful connection. It simply does not ‘work’ otherwise.

We all need connection and we all need to be heard

Deep inside, everyone is yearning for connection with others. Sharing ourselves in conversation is one of many ways for us to connect with one another. We are highly social beings. We need connection. We don’t want to feel alone, isolated inside our own world. We want to share our world with others, weaving bridges of connection and understanding between us and other humans. Listening is key to true connection and the depth of connection can only grow when we are fully present with the other and open to receiving them. Connection comes through allowing someone else’s world to touch me, and to, perhaps, strike a chord in me. I can relate, I can empathise, I see their world mirrored in my own experience.

We all have the need to be received by the other and to know that we have been heard, understood and seen. There is something beautiful and healing in being fully received and heard by the other(s) in conversation, knowing that what we said truly arrived.

When we open ourselves up to connection with others, as we do in conversation, we are all to some extent vulnerable as we share ourselves with the person or group we are speaking to. The more we are heard and received (on various levels), the more we can sink into trusting and knowing that we are welcome, which will encourage us to connect even deeper, sharing more of ourselves, as we now know it lands safely.

This is how connection in relationship can continue to deepen: the more I soften to allow the other in, by listening and sensing their being, the more their words are received. The more they are received, the more welcome my (conversation) partner feels. This in turn encourages more openness and he or she might share more deeply still, perhaps dropping another layer, allowing me to discover more about who they are. The connection deepens through deep listening.

Even if I disagree, it’s okay. I can still listen! I can still take in the words.
Listening does not mean agreeing. Listening is simply a space for connection.

Deep listening comes solely through being fully present with the other. Allowing the words to land in my being. More can be, but is not necessary, such as agreeing or disagreeing, or offering solutions. Sometimes, all that’s needed is for the words to be heard by the listener and the speaker.

How to listen

Listening is giving and receiving. It is giving my attention, while receiving what the other is saying.

While I am listening, I am taking in the other person, their world, their sentiments, their viewpoints. I am ‘stepping back’ to make space so that the speaker can be heard until, naturally, it’s my turn again to speak.

In order to listen and to receive, of course, I have to be receptive, that means ‘passive’, empty, open, curious. It comes with a softness; it kinda is softness.

Receiving is not possible if I’m already filled with ‘thinking that I know’, preconceived ideas, assumptions, personal and collective conditioning, the need to ‘be right’ and other agendas. That’s like wearing a conversation-raincoat, everything that is said rolls off the layers of my beliefs.

Embodied Listening

Listening requires openness, not just of the ears, but of one’s whole body and being. Deep listening is listening with the body, with all the senses, taking in all that is between the words too.

This means sensing how things are said, what body language and what emotions oscillate with and between the words, which often says much more than the words themselves.
Can I ‘hear’, can I sense the person, mood, emotion, etc. behind the spoken word?

For me, a very useful tool for deep listening is to remain aware of my own body while I am listening and giving my attention to the other. This way I stay in connection with myself as I receive what is said and can sense how the words land with me in my body. This can be as simple as noticing my breath, my spine, my feet on the ground, or my back resting against the sofa, while my attention is with the other.

This is embodied listening, listening with the whole body, and it helps me to remain present with what the other brings, rather than being in my mind (thinking about what I am going to say, or how I disagree with what I am hearing). It helps me to cultivate awareness of myself and the way I receive the worlds of others. There is a lot to learn in that.

Some inspiration to practice listening

  • If you want to deepen and grow your connection with the people in your life — listening is absolute key.
  • Listening skills are foundation for successful communication and for the health of any partnership — business or personal.
  • Listening takes patience and presence — so it’s a good mindfulness practice.
  • If you can be present to your way of listening, it will show you a lot about yourself: how challenging or easy it is for you to listen; how you may react to other’s viewpoints; your preconceived ideas and biases; your capacity to stay present and focused, etc.
  • By listening to and the receiving of the other, you are in turn given a beautiful gift: you are invited into someone’s world. The more you accept this gift, the more deeply you will know them.
  • The deeper you can listen to loved ones, the more you allow them in, the more you feel, see and understand their unique being and the depth and layers of who they are. The deeper I get to know them, the more I can be touched by who they are and the more I learn about myself.
  • Listening offers the opportunity to learn something — about a topic, about a friend, about oneself.

Conversation is a space for us to practice the dance of giving and receiving, speaking and listening. It opens the possibility to soften our ideas of what we think we know, and it offers a playground for weaving and growing threads of connection between ourselves and the people in our lives.
With these threads of connection, we build bridges between our different inner realities. We ensure we are not each an island of our conditioning, ideas, beliefs and experiences. Through these bridges we can learn from each other, inspire each other, touch each other, and remember that we always have a common human experience, despite any conceived differences.