“One social habit that I used to be quite bad at was to truly listen when other people spoke. I sometimes zoned out. I got distracted or my attention started to wander before they were done talking. Or I just waited for my turn to talk again (while thinking about what I should say next). Not very helpful. So things had to change.” —Henrik Edberg
There is no greater gift that one person can give another than sustained, attentive, and nonjudgmental listening.
Being fully heard and deeply understood by another human being is rare and can be life changing.
Because such committed listening also enriches the experience of the listener, it can transform relationships.
In addition, it is an essential ingredient of “deep work” (see previous post).
Henrik Edberg describes the attributes of such listening this way:
“When you listen, just listen. ” Don’t interrupt. Don’t jump in with solutions (this one can be a hard one in my experience).
“Just be present in the moment and listen fully to what the other person has to say and let him or her speak until the entire message is said.
“Sometimes that is also all that’s needed. For someone to truly listen as we vent for a few minutes and figure things out for ourselves.”
“Just listening” requires practice and discipline, however.
Sophia Dembling offers a tool that can help us master this demanding habit:
“Imagine that there is a big arrow hovering over the space between two people engaged in a conversation…. As the listener in this conversation, your goal is to keep the arrow pointing at the other person for as long as possible.
“A devoted listener knows that there is always more to learn about another person, no matter how long you’ve known them.”
What have you learned about the benefits of such listening, and what helps you more consistently offer it to others?