Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Listening for Your Heart

There is special kind of listening called listening with the heart that unlocks a treasure unlike anything else. Listening with the heart creates connection between two people, two countries, and even between a person and themselves or their natural surroundings. Listening with the heart helps you, well, get to the heart of the matter. It strengthens bonds. It opens the door for healing to occur. And it’s good for your health!

You are not alone if you have difficulty listening. It is one of our most common interpersonal relationship stumbling blocks. There is only one way to access the key to better listening. You must turn off all those red buttons that go off in your mind. The flashing red lights that have you preparing a response without really hearing what the other person is saying. The buttons that project your own meaning on what is being said instead of listening to understand the other person’s meaning. And worst of all, the buttons that urge you to jump in and interrupt because you think you have something more important to say OR because what a person is saying makes you uncomfortable prompting you to talk over and shut the person up altogether.

I was in a health care workshop once when the facilitator began to speak about how to handle someone who emotes in your presence and perhaps shares an experience that is causing them concern. His simple advice? Listen. He said, “If a client emotes with you it is a sign that they trust you enough to allow a peek into their innermost being. This goes for anyone who allows themselves to be vulnerable with you whether in business or personal interactions. It is a sacred moment and one you should be honored to witness. Be quiet. Give your full attention and respect.” He went on to say, “If you find you have difficulty hearing someone’s story or observing their tears, I strongly urge you to seek therapy to find out why. That is something going on inside of YOU that needs to be addressed and healed.”

While undergoing a training in body-centered psychotherapy I learned to listen with my whole being. When the traditional senses of sight, hearing, and touch join together with well-honed intuition and empathy – while allowing the mind to retreat to the background - we can be said to be listening with the heart. This requires “tuning in” completely to the other person. Most of my client sessions involved quiet, focused listening to what the person’s whole being was telling me. Quite often during a session I did little more than mirror back the few words uttered by the client. At the conclusion, inevitably the client reported feeling truly understood though I had added little or no input. The client was able to pull together lost parts of themselves and begin to heal simply because they were heard with unbiased, unconditional regard for what their experience was in a given moment. Healing does not need to be in a clinical setting to occur.

Listening is an extremely pleasurable experience when you do it with the intention of really connecting with another human being and meeting them on their own level. The opposite, interrupting or talking over a person, raises blood pressure for both parties and is often cause for two people moving further away from each other rather than closer to understanding and compassion. This makes sense when you consider the work of Dr. Rick Bommelje and Dr. Manny Steil whose "Listening Leaders Newsletter" reports the effects of interrupting on your health:

Several university studies have found that people who interrupt conversations are at greater risk for heart problems. In fact, one study at Duke University found that people who interrupt are up to seven times more likely to get heart disease! Why is this so? The researchers theorize that people who interrupt are excessively competitive and controlling - two hallmarks of the worst "Type A" personalities.

But here is the amazing kicker: These same high-risk people can lower their risk without totally altering their personalities...and without any drugs, exercise or dietary changes. All they have to do is practice being good listeners.

If you are someone who tends to interrupt or gets anxious during a conversation there is plenty of information available to help you learn how to listen. Here’s a great short video from Ornish Lifestyle Medicine to get you started:  When you have more time, Leon Berg offers great suggestions in his TEDx talk

Your significant others and business colleagues will thank you! 

Peace of the day to you and happy listening, Robin

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