Controversial Listening Skills

One of my favourite things is sitting down with a friend for a cup of coffee and a chat. If we were having a cup of coffee together today, you would hear a lot about listening skills – the ability (or dismal failure) of the people around me to listen to what is being said to them.

I am grateful that I have friends who DO listen to me, even if it is just with half an ear. Listening is key to all effective communication. Without the ability to listen effectively messages are easily misunderstood and communication quickly breaks down. Effective listening requires focus and concentration. The problem is that most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

Having effective listening skills also means paying attention not only to what is being said but also to how it is being said. It means being aware of both verbal and non-verbal messages.

Talking to an effective listener is a blessing. I have a few highly effective listeners in my life. I am very grateful for

My friend Paulette, who does not speak a word of English, but continues to listen with rapt attention when I switch from French to English without realising (it happens, more now that I have reached midlife),

My friend’s daughter Marie Claire, who is as mad about horses as I am and listens to me talk about them as if I am the world’s best and most experienced horsewoman,

My friend Rosemary, who listens to the silences between the words and interprets them correctly (Thank you, Rosie),

My husband, who listens to me while reading his newspaper and when I start talking gibberish looks over his glasses at me and says « I assume you think I am not listening? »,

My dog Melchi, who when I talk to her, gives me her full, unwavering, focused attention, especially when I am holding a dog biscuit in my hand,

My friend Caroline who listens to me, tells me when I am talking utter nonsense and is STILL willing to continue to listen to me talk nonsense if that is what I need to do at that moment.

I am grateful for (and utterly amazed by) my friend Christine, who can do several things at the same time without ever losing the thread of the conversation,

I am grateful for those of my friends who can listen to me without interrupting with, « When this happened to me, I did not… »

I am grateful to people who listen to me and then ask questions that show that they understand what I am going on about and is interested in what I am saying.

I am most grateful of all to the few people I know who have mastered the art of listening with empathy and understanding, without ever succumbing to the temptation of telling me exactly how to solve my problems in three seconds flat.

I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. Robert McCloskey

Even meditation, especially mindfulness meditation, is essentially about listening to yourself, to your body and to your mind. What greater compliment, what greater act of acceptance and appreciation, can you pay yourself than to listen to yourself with full attention?

I believe that helping people improve their ability to listen effectively and so improve their communication skills and relationships, is very important. We, therefore, spend a fair amount of time on this subject during our transformational Mindfulness Meditation Workshops. We use equine-assisted experiential learning (EEL) to help our retreat participants put what they have learned about communication into practice.

Horses are highly sensitive to what is NOT being said, in other words, to non-verbal communication. During an EEL session, our retreat participants learn that they need to communicate accurately, openly and honestly. They also learn to pay acute attention and to interpret body language as this is the horses’ main communication tool. Our retreat participants quickly pick up a variety of effective communication skills that they can then use when talking to other people.

If you would like to find out more about EEL, please CLICK HERE and if you want to find out more about our Connect with Horses Mindfulness Meditation Retreats, please CLICK HERE.

Of all the tools available to us in dealing with conflict, none is more important than attentive, intentional listening. Listening helps reduce resistance and opens our thinking to creative solutions. Listening not only clarifies the message but changes both the messenger and the listener. Listening makes it possible for both sides to have a change of heart.  Brian Muldoon


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This post is part of the MJP Gratitude Challenge and the Ten Things of Thankful Challenge (#10Thankful). This post is also part of the #Weekend Coffee Share collection of blog posts, hosted by Diana of Parttime 

10 things of thankful#weekendcoffeeshare

18 Replies to “Controversial Listening Skills”

  1. Such a wonderful blog post! If my ex and I were talking, he sometimes wouldn’t pay attention, which caused me to become angry. Very shortly this would happen:

    Ex: “But I was listening!”
    Me: “No, you weren’t! You were hearing, not listening! There is a difference between the two!”

  2. My dog Melchi, who when I talk to her, gives me her full, unwavering, focused attention, especially when I am holding a dog biscuit in my hand,
    and surely, the goal (or portion thereof) of self-improving oneself, is to acquire the capacity to recognize when, we are being the biscuit or (when we are) the speaking voice

    enjoyed your Post

  3. You are so right. We do listen with the intent to reply and are not patient enough to really listen, appreciate what we heard, consider it and then respond. We are very fortunate when we find people who can do just that. I have strived more in the past year to do just that, it’s a discipline. Wonderful post!! There’s so much we can learn from both animals and nature. 😊

  4. I’m TERRIBLE at listening without jumping in and trying to fix things. It’s a skill I haven’t taken time to practice. I’m glad you have so many wonderful listeners in your life.

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