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Improve Your Relationships: The Art of Listening

Updated: Jul 28, 2019

I often find myself in conversations where my participation level sits at 90% listening and 10% head nodding in empathetic agreement, offering hums of understanding and the odd utterance of mutual dismay.

I sit and nod, tilt my head to one side, keep eye contact, and let the words of my companion seep inside my head and resonate through the space between us.

I enjoy this kind of conversation. I like to be quiet. I also like to talk, sometimes.

I'm enriched by this kind of conversation. It reminds me of who I was before I was 'now' me.

I know what it is to be lonely, to need a compassionate ear to bend and stretch to fit the words literally bursting from my mouth. I know how it feels to need release. I know how it feels to feel (and be) alone. To have the urgency to say the words out loud to someone I trust, to look at someone’s face, as a waterfall of emotions spill from my heavy lips, as their eyes fixated on mine concur; ‘I’m not crazy’.

Not all crazy.

I know the dull, aching itch to say the words out loud, to get them outside of my head, blurt out as rapidly as possible, ripping off the plaster, knowing that a moments hesitation, a wayward eyebrow raise, a barely imperceptible twitching of the lips; the gust will falter, the head will clog, and everything turns black, stifled.

I like these types of conversations. I like being that ear to bend and stretch. I like being the sounding board for ideas and theories that really need no answer nor opinion, where nods and head-tilts alone soothe mental cuts and bruises like breathing in deep mother hugs. I like to embody trust, and be worthy of such. I try to be that person.

Compassion. Understanding. Kindness. Love.

It’s not always easy to approach each encounter with each of these skills. We have to practice to be proficient users of the larger, 'listening skill'.

We learn to bypass in favor of teasing and gossiping and other playground habits engraved on our character as we grow.

Kids are cool. They are kind, empathetic, beautiful little creatures of inspiration. They're also mean, and gross, and smelly and sometimes very unkind. Human nature, and environmental influence.

Just as traits take years to learn, they take years of practice to change. From experience, not every day is a good day, and that’s OK. Understanding is easy, practicing is an ongoing process.

I digress…

I like to be the listener and the comfort giver, the human pillow. I want to be the fixer too, despite knowing my own needs don't need a fixer, but an ally. The most important thing for me to remember as mother, lover, friend and professional; it’s my responsibility to listen, not fix. Sometimes fix.

Listen without judgement.

By listening, we facilitate growth, we enable release.

Listening speaks volumes. It changes lives.

When we listen without judgement, without offering advice, we are doing a silent kindness that resounds throughout the universe.

A simple mindfulness practice or fun activity (like the Listening Circle game, also known as the whispering game) can open the listening conversation to our kids and students.

Daily affirmations and mantras are also effective (for the big kids :D )

Here are a couple-

'I listen with my ears, heart, eyes, soul and energy.'

'I give my full attention, I listen deeply, I hear the words of others.'

‘In willingness a hundred thousand miles is not far, in unwillingness even your neighbor is far away’ – Venerable Master Hsing Yun

Listening, really listening to understand, is the biggest service we can do for others and for ourselves. Our relationships will thank us for it.


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