The Art of Listening

little green flying insect

It’s the practice itself that really matters

I found this on Twitter the other day, and it got me thinking about the art of listening…

While someone else is speaking, how often am I busy framing a reply? And if I’m focused on thinking about what I’m going to say next, that’s not actually listening. And then, I started thinking about how many conversations occur where both parties are more engaged in their own internal dialogues rather than a real, authentic, “I’m listening to you” dialogue.

Through this lens, silence isn’t just not speaking while someone else has the floor. Silence is a way of being, an inner stillness. In addition to silencing my “outside voice” (i.e., not interrupting), listening includes silencing my “inside voice” (see above) … and paying complete attention: with ears, eyes, undivided attention and heart.

I’ve been delivering training on Motivational Interviewing for about the last 15 years, and have spent much of that time focusing on the skill of reflective listening in clinical practice. In fairness, I also endeavor to “walk the walk” in everyday life. But something about that tweet caught my attention and made me pay attention.

Every conversation is an opportunity to simply practice listening. And like any discipline, it’s the practice itself that really matters.

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