Friday, October 17, 2008

The Zen of Listening

It's been a looooong week. I am mothering little people again. Since June, my 2 grandchildren have been living with us. It's everything you would expect if you've had kids. It's temporary (as I'm wringing my hands and typing at the same time) My first g-child was born when my own youngest was only 8, so I never really got out of the swing of it.

I find myself saying to the kids the word "Listen" alot. I tell them there is a reason we have 2 ears and one mouth.

But, it had not occurred to me that maybe I might be a better listener too. There was an article in the paper this week about this very subject. It was titled "Learning to Listen".

I didn't realize that there are mental and physical benefits to being a better listener. The author said it is never too late to break a lifetime of bad listening habits and doing so can not only improve your relationships, but also keep you younger, healthier and just plain better all the way around.

Effective listening is about paying attention to body language and tone of voice, it's about being in the moment. I read that listening is the first of our five senses to develop in the womb and the last to leave at death. There's a reason for that: It's the key to human development and how we interact with our environment.

Focused listening can improve lives and and relationships in so many ways. I know I feel respected when I am listened to. There is a certain dignity to being listened to. When we can't connect with the important people in our lives, we suffer, they suffer. In the article it says this: "Poor listening is to blame for many of the headaches and heartaches in our lives, schoolyard and workplace violence, high divorce rate, malpractice suits, dissatisfied customers and other costly mistakes" Listening closely is essential for making all relationships more emotionally satisfying.

One way to be a better listener is to "get into the movie". The way to do this is to forget about yourself, and get into the other person's movie, just like we do when we are at the movies. Deep breathing is a key element of focused listening as well as meditation, because its calming and sends more oxygen to the brain, which increases alertness. Really listening to someone is almost like meditation , and it can have the same beneficial effects of focus and relaxation.

Here are some helpful rules to be a more "mindful listener":

1.) getting the whole message by processing nonverbal cues and pauses as well as spoken words.

2.) maintaining sustained attention.

3.) making the speaker feel valued and respected.

4.) listening to what you say yourself when you speak.

Quieting the mind is basic to good listening and allowing silence is a great habit to develop and so worthwhile.

I am sure I need to work on all these points.

Maybe I haven't been so mindful with these children. Maybe their listening skills are just a reflection of the habits that've developed as a result of our hectic days...who has the time? I'm going to try to be more aware now. I want to be the one they say (or feel) really listened to them. I very much do.

Isn't that all we really want anyway? to be heard. really heard. and understood.

xx lori


  1. Lori, this is such a great post! I agree with every sentence you wrote. I am also one (by nature) who likes to talk and amuse others by funny stories and interrupt them when they talk too slowly -but I also know how essential listening is. My daughter, the judge, is so highly successful with achieving cosensual agreements in court, because she does just that. She tells the parties who come to her angily and ready to hate their opponents to calm down first. She is a positive person, very smart, too. So she has a solution in mind already, but she tells the parties that now comes their time. What is it they really really want most? And then she listens, even writes it down on a blackboard. Sometimes it is only the cat they want to keep, or that the other one apologizes, simple things - not the money they came to fight for! And as she patiently listens to their true desires, a solution is often obvious to all of them. Very often, she says, they all come to her afterwards to shake her hand and say thank you.
    I agree totally to what you said: We all just want to be recognized and appreciated!
    Lori, I love your blog! You write about so interesting themes.

  2. What a fantastic post! THANK YOU.

    Wonderful reminders, all of them. And I love it that you tell the kids there's a reason you have two ears and one mouth. Oh yeah!!

    I have a friend who uses the phrase "hard of listening" when describing folks who can't/don't/don't want to listen.

    Thank you so much for this!

  3. angela, it is easy for me to see where your daughter gets her "smarts". thank you for the lovely words, ah, now if i could only follow my own words...i do think though that the older i get the better listener i become. Maybe this is why I much prefer to read all the wonderful blogs instead of write my own!

    xx lori

    Dear Reya,
    Hard of Listening is great, i will remember that! thanks for your comment!

    xx lori

  4. hi Lori - what a great post and excellent reminder! i will try to be a better listener :-)

  5. Good advice Lori, but I can't believe you're a grandmother!

  6. Val! your back, yea! welcome home to the blogosphere!now, i can't wait to hear all about your adventures!

    xx lori

    b.t.m., yeah, i get that alot. maybe being around kids all the time keeps you young heh? and having a younger husband! if you look close at my pic you will most defintely see the gray..ssshhh! my mom says not supposed to point that out!
    thanks for visting!
    xx lori

  7. I hear you!! great post and it fits well with some wisdom I ran across the other day in a post from another blogging bud. this is a swedish proverb:

    Fear less, hope more;
    Eat less, chew more;
    Whine less, breathe more;
    Talk less, say more;
    Love more, and all good things will be yours.

    oh geez word verification is earrha --haha!!!!

  8. mouse (aka kimy), thats great! thanks so much for sharing, really need to work on the eating less...

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


xoxo lori