Listen With Intent
May 25, 2022
Every few months, I gravitate to writing about one recurring theme- Listening- to remind myself to keep working at becoming a better listener.
Often, we mistakenly equate communication with talking. But “not talking,” listening is as critical if not a more critical skill.
You can listen actively and deeply when you genuinely believe that the person speaking has intrinsic worth and brings about a perspective you lack or need. However, it becomes an arduous exercise when the viewpoints expressed by the other person challenge your beliefs or when the other person does not share your value system.
E.g., if you value hard work and someone you think of as a slacker tries to convey some viewpoint or perspective, you tend to brush that off as inconsequential. So you don’t listen- you patronize, and you judge.
I am guilty of this bad habit. It takes constant effort to keep my self-awareness and be present to what the other person is saying, while keeping my judgemental thoughts at bay. I stay in the conversation and listen just enough to understand what the other person is saying rather than to figure out the nuances, subtext, and meaning of what is being said.
Good listening is not some passive exercise. When I am listening with genuine interest, my mind is fully engaged, absorbing what the speaker is saying, synthesizing the key messages. Active inquiry is also an essential feature of good listening. When I ask genuine questions, I get answers that open up new pathways for understanding the speaker’s perspective better.
I have realized this simple truth. If I don’t practice listening with intention, my skill deteriorates, like any other skill. Therefore, practicing listening is as critical as practicing speaking !! I have to keep at it.