Communicate to Connect.
Communication is not a one way process, it is not even a two way process, communication is a circular process where each party listens, listens some more and then speaks; the desired result being an understanding of unity. Even if the parties disagree, each party at least understands where the other is coming from and why they might think and act as they do and how they feel about a topic or situation.
My mother used to say that we have two ears and one tongue and that is because listening is doubly important. Unfortunately, most of us are not very good listeners. This is one of the reasons why we have the need for counselors and psychologists; we literally pay people to listen to us. I am not downplaying the important role these professionals undertake, nor the strategies they employ to help people, however, many years ago I read an article which suggested much of the depression and anxiety people suffer could be alleviated if we would just slow down and really listen to the story of another person.
Dr Stephen Covey has identified five levels of listening which can be easily found online and they are excellent. I am going to write in my own words and from my own experiences my five levels of listening.
Level # 1. Not listening at all. This is the lowest level of listening. The hearer is just not hearing at all. There may be words in the room but they are just flying around and bouncing off the walls. There is no opportunity or desire for understanding or connection at this level.
Level # 2. Listening to interject. At this level the words are making some connection but rather than listening for understanding we are listening to respond. Rather than hearing the other person we are busy with our own script in our heads about what we are going to say next. This level of listening is often characterized by interrupting the speaker mid sentence or even mid word with what we want to say. Sometimes the interjector will change the topic altogether! So at this level we aren’t really listening at all. The communication is all about what we want to say – not listening to what the other party has to say.
Level # 3. Selective Listening. At this level we are only listening to hear what we want to hear, everything else is dismissed as unimportant. At level 3 we miss the context of the message. When dealing in words, whether written or spoken, the context is highly important and if we miss the context we most likely miss the whole point of the communication. It is due to selective listening that we have so much miscommunication because what is actually said, is not actually heard.
Level # 4. Listening with Attention. At this level we are paying attention. Our body language would suggest we are engaged, we have eye contact and are actively listening. Attentive listening is good, however often it is accompanied with active judgement. At some level we are making judgements as to the validity of the speaker’s position. Along with this we are also considering what we would do, what we would say, what experiences we have had etc. So while level 4 is good, much of our focus is still on ourselves.
Level #5. Listening for Understanding. Level 5 listening suspends judgement; it listens for understanding and the listener sees through the eyes of the speaker. Level 5 listening embraces feeling and through our listening we understand how the speaker feels about a topic or situation. Level 5 listening is quiet. It does not rush in with solutions nor does it start on a story about how this same thing has happened to me, me, me! Level 5 listening is empathic, it is healing, it is communing with another person.
Commune: to converse or talk together, usually with profound intensity, intimacy, etc.; interchange thoughts or feelings.to be in intimate communication or rapport:to commune with nature. interchange of ideas or sentiments. verb (used without object), com·muned, com·mun·ing.http://www.dictionary.com/
I am not sure about you but I know for sure that my level of listening would benefit from moving up a level or two.