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Estimated Reading Time: 8.7 minutes
“Listening is often the only thing needed to help someone” – Anonymous
Why Do Relationships Matter?
In the article The 5 Regrets of the Dying, Bronnie Ware describes one of the regrets as, “Wishing I had stayed in touch with my friends.” Relationship regret stems from neglect in not cultivating relationships that matter with time and effort. Relationships go deeper than simply subscribing and following. They are not discovered, they are built. It takes intentionality and the vulnerability to share your life without trying to “make a sale” or present a false image of yourself to impress others.
Over the course of my life, I have realized that meaningful relationships lead to a better quality of life. This is why this month I will distill what I believe are 4 sauces that every valuable relationship should marinate in, to thrive. Here is the road map:
- The Sauce of Listening (today’s post)
- The Sauce of Loyalty (delivery date: 2/14)
- The Sauce of Support, Encouragement, and Care (S.E.C.) (delivery date: 2/21)
- The Sauce of Trust (delivery date: 2/28).
Let’s begin with listening. Ready?
Listening is a function of both mind and heart
It has been said that listening is the skill or ability to accurately receive messages in the communication process. Dr. Stephen R. Covey observed that while we are taught how to read and write, we don’t have listening improvement classes, which is a vital yet difficult relational skill. Learning to listen can raise your relational equity because it shows you are interested in the other person and value their thoughts and feelings.
By listening you get an inside look into other people. Listening is like performing an X-ray or MRI. You get to know others in a deeper, more detailed way. You get to know their heartbeat and get in touch with the current condition of their heart. Next time you listen to someone speak, engage your heart and mind. The relationship will flourish and become even more valuable.
Listening is the water that makes conversation flourish
Those who talk the most without giving time to listen to others are often the most lonely. Bernard Baruch made this observation, “Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”
Have you ever put pressure on yourself to find something to say, but as the pressure rises, the more you draw a blank mentally? Choosing to listen first opens a pressure relief valve in your mind and suddenly a spring of words flow. You get engaged and soon others are asking about you. The conversation grows and something wonderful is created. Mitigate the pressure to speak by seeking to listen first. You will learn so much from it.
Listening is essential to learning.
The better you are at listening, the less feedback is seen as an attack but as an assessment to becoming a better person. You adopt the posture of a learner. Ernest Hemingway put it best when he said, “I like to listen, I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” As an avid reader, I must be careful not to impose what I read on others to sound impressive or try to “treat” their issues. I must make listening an intentional habit to ensure I am not too book informed that I become rationally exhausting by always dumping on people what I know.
Larry King said,”I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” Personally, listening helps to close emotional distance. Through listening, I am learning humility as well. I get to know how much I do not know but need to know. Doug Larson is quoted are saying, “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.”
Listening is an act of generosity
Listening means lending valuable mental bandwidth to another person. It calls for your full mental capacities. Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen says, “The most powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.” And attention is as valuable as ever in our digital age.
I have made the grave error of attempting to listen to my wife while scrolling through my phone or watching TV. Needless to say, those lopsided conversations have not gone well and I have regretted not paying attention. Later, I would bring up something that my wife had mentioned and I expose myself as an offender of not giving her due attention. I failed to heed M. Scott Peck’s advice that, “You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” When devices are prioritized above deepening connections with those around us, our relationships get fractured. On the contrary, when I have looked at my wife and engaged in truly listening to her, those conversations are mutually beneficial. This experience has taught me the magnetic power that listening possesses.
Prolific author Brenda Ueland challenged, “Think how the friends that really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and want to sit in their radius as though it did us good, like ultra violet rays.” She went on to provide the reason, “When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold, and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life.” By listening to someone or by being listened to, heavy mental burdens can be lifted and relief experienced.
Communication builds or breaks on the premise of listening. Here are a three out of many obstacles to better listening. They serve as grounds that breed contempt and resentment in a relationship:
- Viewing a conversation as a competition or an argument instead of a discussion.
- Distractions (mainly from devices).
- Constantly interrupting the person talking.
The following prompts have significantly improved my ability to listen. I hope they will help you as well:
- Start the conversation with a question of interest in the other person not a statement of self-assertiveness. Ed Cunningham noted, “Friends are those rare people who ask how we are, and then wait to hear the answer.”
- Observe more, overlook less.
- Stop waiting your turn to talk, listen fully. Best selling author, Simon Sinek, insists that, “There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak.”
By applying the aforementioned listening prompts, you will greatly improve your aptitude for listening and your relationships will start to soar.
Final Thought: When we give our most valuable relationships our best instead of our leftovers, we create the right environment to craft richer and deeper connections.
Exercise: Which prompt can you apply to become a better listener?
Keep on Keeping on!