Having an ability to hear is a privilege. Learning to listen however, is a learned skill.
Effective listening requires that you stop talking. It requires that you disconnect from your own thoughts and experiences, and listen to another. This is the skill you have to learn.
Most people internalise when they listen, which means that while you are listening to another, you are already preparing your answer, or are relating what you are hearing to your own thoughts, experiences or agenda.
When you listen with intent, you listen to understand, not to answer back. You’re no longer distracted by your own thoughts, and the advantage of listening with this sort of intent, is that the other person can genuinely feel that you’re interested in their story.
As much as learning to listen to others is a learned skill, so too is listening to your own gut instincts. Ironically, your tendency to overthink means that you don’t listen to yourself effectively either.
Here are 3 areas where you can improve your self-listening skills:
Every answer you seek, you already know. If you listen intently, you will find the answer, and you will figure it out. The challenge you have to overcome is that you listen to everybody else’s opinion first. Your mind gets so busy trying to weigh up the opinions of others, versus what you have been conditioned to believe is socially acceptable to other people. You overthink everything. Listen to yourself more.
When your mind is so busy trying to collate all these thoughts, you miss out on the opportunity to listen, and trust, your own instincts and intuition. Nobody knows you better than you, but in order to listen to your intuition, you have to learn how to switch off your thoughts.
Action: Meditation. It’s a really simple practice that you can do in the comfort of your bed, or in a comfortable chair in your lounge or office. 10-20 minutes of mindfulness, practiced on a daily basis can be life-changing. Remove all the crazy thoughts running around your mind by focusing on your breathing. Quieten your mind and see what comes to you.
2. Listen to Your Body
Your body is an intricate system of nerves, veins, and vital organs that all work together in a way that you and I cannot ever fully understand. It has a finite life span, and it’s therefore important that this vehicle that carries you around in this lifetime is well looked after.
Your energy tank will run out if you push yourself and ignore the obvious signs. Again, nobody knows you better than yourself. You know when you are pushing yourself to keep work, family and personal lives all at acceptable levels to somebody else. It’s not worth it. One day when your energy tank runs dry you will have nothing to give to anyone, so be observant of the signals.
Your body will send you these signals when it’s time for a break. Listen. Put yourself first. It’s not selfish. Change how you think by reminding yourself that you are doing this for others.
Action: Be proactive. Schedule your body and energy maintenance activities into your week so that it’s a consistent part of your routine. Exercise, holidays, massages, yoga. Look after yourself. When you feel exhausted, take a breather.
3. Listen to Your Loved Ones.
There are people in your life who will always look out for you. Sometimes these people know you just as well as you know yourself. You might ignore them. They are special people who are sent to you for a particular purpose. Call them guardian angels, soul mates, lovers, friends, family, or whatever you want, but most importantly, be aware of who they are in your life. Listen to them too. Especially when you realize that they love you and have your best interests at heart.
This week, practice listening more than you think or talk. You are more powerful than you realize and you always know more about yourself than you think.
Until you stop and listen you will never truly know how much.