Are we listening?

I have been thinking a lot about listening and how well I do it. I think we’ve all been in a place/space where someone we know behaves contrary to type and asked ourselves how we missed our friend’s unusual happiness or sadness.

Too often it is because I have so much on my mind and I’m often rushed off my feet negotiating work, home and just meeting the demands of each day. Listening becomes a passive and unconscious exercise. I chuckle to myself every time I have this exchange:

“Hello, how are you?”
“Good and you?”
“Great and you?”

Clearly I’m not listening.

Graham Williams and Dorian Haarhoff (authors of the Halo and the Noose) put it so well when they describe listening as “something we do without preconceptions, distraction, with total attention and mindfulness, with the purpose of understanding and learning”.

Rumi, the 13th-century poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic said it very eloquently when he said “the branches of your intelligence grow new leaves in the wind of listening”.

If we were totally in the moment we would also pick up those subtle cues – the slightly raised eyebrow, the tilt of the chin, the slight pull on the corner of the lips – and then we might have a complete picture.

Perhaps the biggest gift we can give to each other is to truly see and hear each other.