Ssh...Listening ONLY

“The word 'listen’ contains the same letters as the word 'silent'.” ― Alfred Brendel

Isn’t that something. That says a bowl full about my passion and curiosity with silent listening. A word scramble. The link between the two.

Silent listening when done with care, can make a world of difference. Particularly for those who don’t often have a voice at the table.

And listening is a FUNdamental skill.

Who taught you how to listen?

Were you encouraged to practice this skill?

Were you taught the importance of listening to yourself?

Your feelings, senses, thoughts? Your imagination?

Not sure about you but my answer is a Nope.

I wasn’t taught any of that. Not when I was a child anyways.

And growing up in a family of seven girls--Yup you heard that right--Listening was not at the top of any list.

I began to learn about a deeper kind of listening as an adult, wanting to be a better parent. I’ve been practicing, exploring and actively learning about listening since my kids were wee ones.

Nonviolent Communication was my introduction to empathetic listening and communication skills.  It was a light-bulb moment hearing Marshall Rosenberg speak. We joined a practice group and off I went.

Listening with empathy brought me home to a part in myself that was starving for contact. It turned my life around. It brought the mo into my jo so to speak.

And truth be told it was a joyous reunion, a YES from deep in my body. Like my heart recognized what my mind didn’t know. And now they were aligned.

“Listening is so much like love it’s impossible to tell the difference”- Barbara Pine  

PAUSE here. Take a moment to ask yourself how often you’ve been really listened to? A time when someone stayed with you, eyes on you, heart open, not speaking back, simply offering a listening ear.  If you can say that happens often, YAY for you.

No is the more common response I hear.

We are hungry to be heard. A craving for a listening that lies underneath the ego and the mind. A listening that is embodied. A quality of presence that supersedes words.

I wonder if much of our loneliness, distractions, addictions, anxiety etc. are a result of not being seen, heard, and acknowledged?

Listening is an antidote. Not the only. But it could be a really, really big one.

Every-time I listen deeply and quietly to someone, love is transmitted. I can feel that down to my toes.

And to be clear I am really good at listening emphatically to clients, to friends, to strangers on an airplane, or in line at the grocery store. It’s what makes me a good coach and facilitator.

But it isn’t always easy with my intimates, my family of origin, people in power etc.

Triggers fly. I can find myself in fight, flight or flee in a heartbeat.

Listening is near on impossible when our sympathetic nervous system in activated. Silence can be a step in becoming aware of our jumpy systems. Conscious of our reactions. And a space to get curious.

Here are some reasons to inspire you to give silent listening a go:

  • Everyone can do it.

  • It gives you an opportunity to notice and regulate your nervous system. So important! More about this in another post.

  • It’s a dance of sorts, the brain changing kind. (Did you know the average person can speak 120-150 words a minute but the average brain can process around 350-500 words, that’s why you can be readying a response or reviewing your laundry list when you listen!).

  • It’s a practice in giving the 200 or so odd words a minute-- that are going on in your own head-- a new framework, mindful attention, or a no compete clause. A chance to get curious about yourself.

  • You’ll make new friends. Most of us are listening deprived.

  • It slows relationship down.

  • It creates a bridge. A quiet one. For you to walk across as you listen. Pause to note your own reactions, to feel your body, to settle your body, to meet the person in the middle.

  • You will fall in love with more humans.

  • The power of witnessing. Alone. Simply being with another. Life-changing.

  • Don’t silently listen when someone is saying things that are harmful. This is a practice for personal and collective growth when the space is equitable and held with care.

Fun fact: My partner and I have a silent listening check in that we have been doing for almost two years. Silently hearing him without responding is nail biting at times. But it’s been transformational for our relationship. And of course sometimes we need to talk things through. But honestly a lot less resentment brews between us, and knowing he can’t respond requires a newly minted care in my articulation of challenging feelings and needs.

Silent listening is a practice. Not a perfect. It’s a learning opportunity, Life is a listening training ground. Ripe in so many moments. It’s helpful to use a timer particularly in our domination structures.

Take on the challenge. Get quiet. Surprise your loved ones by listening in a fresh way.

Email me and let me know how it goes! Or ask me questions.

To a world with a little more silent/listen!