Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Power of Listening

We often think of listening as a passive activity. We tell our children, “I’m listening,” just to get them off our backs, when in reality; we continue doing other things while they talk. We don’t really hear what they are saying; we are just trying to get something done, while giving them what we think that they want and need.

Children quickly learn that if they want our undivided attention, they have to do something more than talking to get it, and that usually means misbehavior!  When we truly listen, we don’t just hear words, we feel what the other person is feeling. Listening requires focused effort on the face of the other person, their, lips, eyes, and mouth. It requires seeing things from their point of view and understanding what is happening in their life. When we do so, we understand on a deeper level, and communicate soul to soul.

There are a number of things that get in the way of listening. Sometimes, we are so preoccupied with our lives, that when someone speaks to us, we do not hear what they are actually saying. Our hearing mechanisms are not tuned into their wavelength, and we may nod or smile, but not really hear.

Perhaps we devalue the person that is speaking, thinking that they are really not worth our time, or they don’t have anything important to say. When this happens, we say something that is demeaning or damaging to the relationship. Unfortunately, they may see us as uncaring, conceited, or even cruel.

Sometimes, we think ahead in the conversation, and rather than listening to what is being said, we think of what we are going to say when the other person stops speaking. This “one up” mentality only serves to make the other person feel insignificant, even put down.

Distraction is another issue when listening. We allow things that are going on around us to take our mind off of the person standing in front of us. We glance at the clock, look at our computer screen, or notice a bird flying around outside the window. We may even allow thoughts of what we are doing later in the day to creep in and take over our level of consciousness.

A lack of interest in the subject matter being discussed can also be a hindrance in our ability to listen. If we don’t think that what is being said is true, or has meaning and purpose, we may discount it. As we do so, we are telling the other person that they are really not important to us.

The power of listening comes in our ability to set aside our own agenda, the distractions and preoccupations of the moment, and really focus on the other person. As we do so, we are sending the message that the person is worthwhile, and what they have to say is important. Our eye contact gives them unconditional love. Each word we say validates their feelings. Our re-phrasing of what is happening lets them know that they have been understood.

Indeed, the power of listening is the ability to uplift another’s soul. When we do so, we lift up our own.

©2014, Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.


  1. Truthfully, Denise, I know very few good listeners. It seems to be a trait that is dying in popularity. Thanks for this reminder.

  2. You are right, Bill. Unfortunately, that is part of the reason for the dearth of emotional health in our current society. We don't take the time to really communicate with each other. Our families are suffering as a result. I appreciate you stopping in and commenting.