I listened to a conversation that took place between Liz Scott and Dicken Bettinger last week about the art of listening deeply and it was truly insightful. Dicken spoke about the way most of us who have been trained in the ‘listening arts’ most of the time can ignore what the other person is saying as we tend to spend time listening for ‘cues’ or for what we’re going to say next.
And it reminded me of the deep listening I was introduced to when I trained to become a psychospiritual counsellor which involves listening heart to heart for the messages your co-conversationalist is sharing beyond the words.
When we listen beyond the words, we hear the intent and we aren’t making assumptions about what someone else means – which is always the risk when we use language. After all, just because I use the same words you do, doesn’t mean how I understand them is the same.
Afterwards, it got me thinking about the deep listening we can do in other ways too, and I realised there were 3 types of deep listening that could have profound impacts on our lives and the way we live them.
The 1st is listening to the words we use.
And for this I want to share a little story that really brought this home to me. I was talking to my dogs, Pip and Belle, as I often do; and they have this look they give you when they think you’re going to be a pushover for a treat. It’s the sort of puppy ‘you just have to love me’ eyes all cocked on one side. And I suddenly heard myself say ‘life’s tough’ as I was talking to them.
Now that might not seem that much, but the impact was like a hammer blow to the head because I realised that this is the evidence of deeply held belief, because if it wasn’t where did it come from. And it was in conflict with my intellectually held belief that life is easy.
It seems to me that we all have an inner and an outer language. The inner one is what we tell ourselves about our beliefs about the world and is the one where we are trying to fool ourselves that we think something different. The outer language is the one that comes out when we aren’t thinking much about anything and is often at odds with where we want to be.
Listening deeply to the words we use in our outer language, with the people, plants and animals around us could be a great way of identifying where we are potentially holding ourselves back, or provide us with clues as to why something else is the way it is.
The 2nd of my three ways is listening to our body.
I’ve mentioned this many times on my blog and in the emails I send in response to people who have questions. I know from personal experience, and from talking with thousands of people over the years, that our body is the fantastic barometer of what’s important, the trouble is we don’t pay attention to the messages it gives us.
Those messages could be related to our health and general well-being along the lines of needing to sleep or eat or walk; or they could be the gut reactions we get to situations we find ourselves in which we may not pay attention to, assuming our intellectual mind is superior to the instinstinctive reaction.
Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink refers to this type of inner knowledge as ‘thin slicing’ where someone is able to pay attention to all the nuance and variables and uses split second timing to make a decision. I prefer to think of it as instinct, built upon layers and layers of personal and collective knowledge. Either way, we can know without knowing how we know that something is right or wrong – but when that knowing rises up, often we will try to intellecutally work out why we think or feel it and overide a perfect system.
Listening deeply to our body will help us avoid stress, illness, disease or even situations that might do us harm and is a listening skill well worth cultivating.
The 3rd and final of my 3 ways is listening to our lives.
Our life is the evidence of the decisions we’ve made in response to circumstances presented to us over the years. We are where we right now because we chose this door rather than that, because we took this action rather than another.
The future is written in the decisions we make on a moment to moment basis about the circumstances we are in. I know this is true when I look at my finances. For example, I spent many years saying there was no point in paying into a pension because we would all be blown up by the time I needed it! Here I am looking through the lens of my glasses at retirement and wondering how things might have been different had I not believed my thinking at the time.
There is no point in looking back and regretting though, the past is another country and we do not have a passport to visit it, all I can do is deeply listen to what my life is telling me and acknowledge that the decisions I make today will be reflected in my future.
And so, the art of listening runs deeper than just to other people, it runs through us, through the words we use unthinkingly, the messages we refuse to hear from our body and evidence we don’t acknowledge from the lives we are leading.
Yet, this is not the end of the story. Every day we are writing the next sentance, paragraph and chapter of our lives, there is everything still to play for; but this time I’ll be listening, deeply listening to everything that has a message for me.