Many of us live busy lives. Through our busy lifestyles, we’ve been trained to master multitasking. But as we work to cultivate greater self-awareness, it’s important to consider what we might be compromising to stay on top of our our daily grind. I know that my own ability to listen to myself and others often gets compromised when it comes to the hustle of daily life.
Truly listening is a skill that many of us are continually working on. It's often easier to talk then to listen. No one would doubt that improving our ability to listen a can deepen a variety of relationships, but without some guidance, it’s hard to notice where our listening skills are today, and how we can refine them.
In Scholé Yoga University, we examine the different levels of listening. Not surprisingly, the lower levels of listening are quite common. These include ignoring and pretending. We often practice these with our families, partners and even at work. With our phones and computers competing for attention so much of the time, most people can think of a time that they pretended to listen over the last few days. These are valid types of listening and there's a place for these, but it’s important to notice if we using them because we choose to? Or have they become habits that are hurting relationships?
Selective listening comes next. To be listening selectively means to hear what you want, and not hear the rest. This often happens when someone is talking about a topic we’re not so interested in, then suddenly brings up one of the points we do want to hear.
After selective listening comes listening to understand. When you listen to understand, you are asking questions and often giving a personal story or experience that relates to what you're listening to. We tend to reply with this “me too!” approach to build affinity with the person we are speaking with, but it still brings the conversation back to us and our experience.
The highest level of listening is the most uncommon. This level is empathetic listening. To listen empathically, you give your full attention to the speaker and listen without judgement. As you listen empathically no words are necessary, you simply accompany the person in their moment of emotion. This is very challenging for many people, as it requires us to be present and withhold our usual reaction to connect the listener’s experience with our own. It’s the kind of listening most of us truly crave, but is the rarest type. This is why Scholé Yoga works to create a space where we can all listen to ourselves at this deepest level, so that we can at least clearly listen to what we really want to tell ourselves.
As you go through your day, I challenge you to take notice to the level of listening you are using. Once you've given some attention to how you are listening in a variety of situations, it’s easier to make a little change and move from understanding to empathic listening. It’s not likely that we’ll be able to spend our entire day being empathetic listeners, but even a little change can go a long way to deepening our connections with those around us. After all, everyone loves to talk to a great listener.