Consistently in the past year during my motivational interviewing trainings, there are several participants that state they want to “improve their listening skills”. They realize the value of paying attention and consciously listening to patients, clients, participants, and team members. With the constant demands and noise all around us, it is getting harder and harder to listen fully.
To listen fully, we need to be aware of our filters. According to sound expert Julian Treasure & Listen Consciously, we have filters we use that create our own reality and tell us what we are paying attention to. The filters we create include:
The key is to be aware of these possible filters, put them aside, and go into the conversation with an open mind and heart.
Julian Treasure warns us about losing our listening since we have so many distractions around us which kills conscious listening. Conscious listening, he says, leads to understanding.
Treasure shares ways to re-tune our ears for conscious listening — to other people and the world around you. These exercises can improve our listening:
- Silence: Silence of 3 minutes a day helps to reset our ears to quiet so that we can listen well. Drive, walk or ride to or from work in silence. Turn off the music, news and podcasts. Just be in silence for 3 minutes.
- The Mixer: Even in a noisy environment, try to listen to as many individual channels as you can hear and differentiate. If you are in a coffee shop, try to listen to the different side conversations: the barista, individuals at the table next to you, the door opening and closing as people come in and go out. This helps us focus and differentiate between different conversations.
- Listening positions: Move your listening position to what’s appropriate – active/passive or critical/sympathetic. This helps you become conscious of barriers/filters to listening.
- Savoring: This is about enjoying the most mundane sounds. For instance, the tumble dryer of a washing machine. We can enjoy any sound as long as we listen. When outside, listen to the birds, the leaves rustling against the branches of the tree, a car driving by or a voice in the distance.
These activities enhance our listening skills. Which item will you be conscious of today? Which listening exercise will you try today?
Listen consciously to live fully, connected in space and time to each other.
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