The Art of Listening…

I’ve been on this Pay It Forward kick for the last few weeks. I’ve paid for strangers coffee, sandwiches, paper towels, a stuffed animal, etc. It’s been interesting to see the responses. Some are thrilled. Some are not interested. Nearly all are confused. Today’s interaction was impressionable. Like with a Monet painting – once you experience one in person, you can effortlessly reflect back on its beauty.

Today I met Kelly. I bought him a hamburger. Kelly just relocated back to DC. He suffers from epilepsy. He lost his dad two years ago. He lost his mom last year. He has 2 ex-wives, 4 sons, 5 grandkids, 2 brothers in jail, and a sister that’s recently gone missing.

I didn’t speak with Kelly long – maybe 20 minutes. But what I learned, perhaps again or perhaps for the first time, is that what many people need, what most people appreciate, is being heard. Being heard requires listening. Listening is not the same as hearing. You can hear sound unconsciously. Hearing requires no effort or thought. Contrastingly, with listening, you are actively, willfully engaged in processing the information you are receiving through sound.

Listening is an art. It’s a Monet. It takes practice and intention.

Listening is like meditation. You need to quiet your own thoughts in order to truly concentrate on what it is that you are hearing. Listening, while thinking of what’s for dinner, or why so-and-so hasn’t liked your latest Instagram post, is not active listening. You need to focus on what you are hearing from the person across from you, as opposed to the running dialogue in your head.

When we actively listen to someone else, we truly give of ourselves in a way that is plentiful and pure. When we listen fully and freely, we aren’t just giving of our time, we are giving our minds.

Kelly taught me why listening is so important. Listening conveys caring in the most simplest, unspoken way. When we actively listen, we communicate caring without speaking a word.

It’s so simple it almost doesn’t need to be said. But then again, are you listening? πŸ™‚