“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”
Listening to the words that are being said is a hard proposition. All too often I catch myself listening just well enough to create my response. In many cases I, and most people, aren’t really listening at all, the mind is rehearsing its response to whatever is being said.
How do you achieve a higher level of listening which is more than hearing all the words? How do you listen well enough to understand the “why” of what is being said? Once you get to that level only then are you truly listening.
I have found two things that help me move past the natural tendency of my mind to be framing a response prematurely.
First, I remind myself to seek to understand the “why.” I want to do everything I can to be able to understand the why well enough to be able to see the conversation from the other side of the table or from another perspective.
Second, as I quiet my mind and truly listen to the words I remind myself to listen in order to ask questions. Listening to respond versus listening to ask questions takes a very different mindset. If one is focused on asking insightful questions in order to understand you can get closer to understanding the “why.”
Neither of these things are easy, and they are certainly not my natural tendency. Doing it well takes both diligence and intentional effort. In many ways it reminds me of a good meditation practice. When you fail, you catch yourself and simply begin again. Do it often enough, and with enough discipline, perhaps you can find yourself truly listening to the conversation that is going on and not just the one in your head…