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Listening is a precious gift

12 Dec 2016 | Karen Liebenguth

When was the last time you felt genuinely listened to by another person.  And when was the last time you genuinely listened to someone?

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Genuine listening happens when we are fully present for another person. When we are not distracted and can offer our full attention to what someone is saying.

It's about taking in what they say without advising, analysing, interpreting or judging. Without needing to solve anything for them. The simple act of listening.

Many of us like to think of ourselves as good listeners, but in all honesty, too often we are waiting for our turn to speak.

Listening is highly undervalued, and yet, we all yearn for more moments when someone deeply listens to us.

"When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new"

~ The Dalai Lama

My coaching clients often say how helpful and restorative it is to be able to talk things through without being interrupted, without judgement. To be able to put into words what's on their mind without needing to fix anything yet.

Often, the act of being present for others - and listening to and reflecting back what they say - is all they need in order to gain new insights, ideas or a fresh perspective on things.

A precious gift

When we feel listened to we feel respected and considered. We feel valued, heard and understood. It is like receiving a precious gift from someone.

Genuine listening happens when we can pay attention to every word the other person is saying. We are aware of how they look and their body language. We are not thinking about the next thing we want to say.

This allows us to enter a deeper connection with someone, to empathise with them. It can feel deeply satisfying.

"When we truly listen to someone what matters is that we allow ourselves to be human with another human being"

~  Eugene Gendlin

How to train your listening ear

When we fully listen to someone, we often feel present, interested, curious and open, and relieved that we don't have to say or solve anything. It brings a sense of freedom, connection and companionship. It is also an act of kindness and generosity to give some listening time to someone.

If you are someone who tends to talk more than to listen, you may want to train the listening muscle a little. You can practice anywhere: at home with your partner and/or children, with your parents, at work with your colleagues, in your social life with your friends or with a stranger at the bus stop or on the train.

Just 10 minutes of our time and attention can make a huge difference to someone and to us. It's a win-win situation.

Some tips:

When you choose to genuinely listen to someone:

  • Make an intention to listen fully, i.e. let go of your own agenda and what you want to say.
  • Relax into yourself: feel your feet on the floor, take a few deeper breaths.
  • Pay full attention to the other person - really look at them (this doesn't mean staring at them (!)), just be aware of them without judgement.
  • Now listen - listen intently what they want to say. When they stop talking, just wait, stay present and keep them company in the silence for it is in the silence that new thoughts, ideas and ways forward emerge.
  • Notice what it feels like to listen in this way; notice what it's feels like for the other person.
  • And most importantly, enjoy the experience. 

When someone deeply listens to you

Here is one of my favourite poems on the topic of listening:

When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you've had since childhood
and watching it fill up withcold, fresh water.

When it balances on top of the brim,
you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin,
you are loved.

When someone deeply listens to you
the room where you stay
starts a new life
and the place where you wrote
your first poem
begins to glow in your mind's eye.
It is as if gold has been discovered!

When someone deeply listens to you
your barefeet are on the earth
and a beloved land that seemed distant
is now at home within you.

~ John Fox



Karen Liebenguth is a qualified coach and an accredited mindfulness teacher. She works with individuals and organisations to foster personal development. Karen specialises in working with clients outdoors in London's parks and green space because she believes that's where insight, change and creativity can happen most naturally.

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For more information visit: www.greenspacecoaching.com or drop Karen a line: karen@greenspacecoaching.com



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