Listening. Like hearing, but more consciously right? Like you listen to what they say, not just vaguely hear the sounds?
Well, there is more to the act of listening than meets the eardrums.
Right now I am stretching myself in a daily practice of 'deep listening' in my relationships, before I facilitate a space of deep listening in a Women’s Circle.
Recently, in the world I inhabit, I have had some great moments from this deep listening practice that I am about to share with you. Here are some of them:
♾ pausing to hug my husband and appreciate his enthusiasm for a topic when I was otherwise ready to be frustrated with him
♾ finding new pauses in my interaction with my kids when they were cross which allowed for more empathy
♾ communicating clearly for a raise on a project because I could more clearly see the opportunity and could see through my stories of why I shouldn’t just ask
♾ enjoying nature deeply
♾ I can feel the space I am giving myself to be more authentic & more spacious (not necessarily slow, haha )
♾ And on the flip side I also have felt terrible when I’ve been in a tense moment w my kids or husband and I'm aware that I’m projecting my stuff, and so all I’m capable of in those moments is after I've become aware that I’ve been reactionary, that I simply have to clean it up later!
Deep Listening is being mindful of your own mental, emotional and physical responses in relation to the world around you.
Your biases, your bullet-train of thinking on rails that may not actually consider the other person's point of view, your drop in blood sugar that is making you tired, or your care for the person you are talking with.
What I have been aware of in my practicing, is that practising deep listening to get different results (and more satisfying ones) is also about breathing space into your heart and the conversation to listen to, dare I say it - nothing at all.
You see, my positive breakthroughs are when I open to possibilities that come from nothingness. When, from this space my perception shifts to: Who is this person? Who do I choose to be? What is possible?
But it takes re-alignment again and again to stay open to the possibility of others and the possibility of myself. Too easily I can lose the curiosity of possibility and fall into the resentment build up, the rumination rut or paint someone or myself or both into the mould that they/I habitually hold.
Do you have listening practices that you do to stay aligned to your values and to better lead or love? Mindfulness for example is a way to practice deep listening.
Below I explore how deep listening can transform the way we lead and live our lives with
Neuroscience and how ‘listening’ effects breaking habits
The difference in our our brains capacity for speaking and listening
How to practice deep listening to support others to be more authentic
How checking your 'listening' can support others better
Some great resources and reflection questions.
Brene Brown says, “What is this one trait that separates successful, highly impactful and transformational leaders from the rest?
It’s the ability to listen and connect wholeheartedly – with compassion, respect, and emotional balance – with all people, regardless of their different ideologies and beliefs.”
So, let's go abit deeper with this seemingly simple act we do everyday - listening.
As I began, how we listen to ourselves and to others has an effect on the outcome.
Have you ever tried to break a habit in an environment and around people that made it hard for you to change that behaviour to feel more authentic to choices you wanted to make?
Maybe let’s say you had people all around you that were drinkers and you wanted to shift that habit but they all knew you as a drinker and would offer you a drink as soon as they saw you. They would hassle you “go on, just one” even once they knew you we're trying to stay dry - not because they were purposefully aiming to hassle you but simply because you had acted a certain way for so long that they ‘listened’ for your drinksy vibe and when it wasn’t there they didn't know how else to respond.
This is all in alignment with current neuro-science and habit change theory. The neurons are wired together not just for our own habits, but in how we respond to others habitually as well. Did you know even when we look to change our responses, we are simply masking the neurons ‘habit’ pathways.
When we start to change (our sense of identity, thoughts & behaviours) and people do not have a new pathway to respond to us, they will simply be in the same response. I call this a ‘listening’.
Another way to describe a ‘listening’ (which does include biases sometimes of course), is that when we communicate we are bound by our past experiences of the person speaking and our own experiences/beliefs relating to the content of what is being said.
What if you had someone listen to you from a place of deep listening?
Deep Listening is a contemplative practice that asks us to stay present with our feelings and awareness so we can listen fully to ourselves and another.
We become aware of how we shape the conversation through our listening.
It is a mindful practice.
It is a practice that can go from the most spiritual to practical.
One reason why this appreciative communication process is valuable is because our brains think at 400-600 words a minute and we speak at under 200 words a minute, so it is a really honouring process to be present when we listen to others. Our brains are having to make an effort to stay focused on more details to listen, rather than get caught in our own inner dialogue or ready responses.
Deep listening breeds a new container for authenticity to flourish when we open up to embodied authenticity - deeply feeling our inner landscape without distorting, denying or putting up a facade to fix, change or defend ourselves.
This supportive listening creates psychological safety and allows the person being listened to to feel accepted and honoured.
"...because human beings automatically alter their behaviour to synchronize with those they are interacting with, the quality of your listening supports the other to be more present, at ease, and authentic," says Focussing teacher & Buddhist, David Rome.
Deep Listening can go further than this when we create a listening that is full of possibility for that person. To do this we need to quieten our own minds, to be aware of the pull of our own reactions and to stay with our breath and our centring on the persons best.
I have had moments of this deep listening in my life. Mostly in counselling, coaching or in Women’s Circles. Sometimes with my kids and in precious moments with my husband.
But quite the contradiction is that often it is with those that love me the most, that seem to listen to me in ways that do not always support my changes or the higher self I am edging to contact and be in my actions.
Why? Because they filter me with their own lenses. Roles like daughter, mother or lover may be higher on their ‘listening’ list than my 'true nature'! Of course you can cultivate this in your relationships, but the day to day grind takes over and intentional spaces need to be cultivated to activate this type of listening.
Perhaps you wish for some deep listening to help you contact your best self?
You can create transformational listening by utilising the following elements:
-feel your own emotions and sensations - your triggers to what is being said, but remember you don’t need to react
-stay present in your heart
-keep problem solving thoughts aside and be with the person
-be compassionate and hold them with care, knowing they are doing their best
-be aware of what ‘stories’ ‘beliefs’ you have going on in your mind and then leave them aside to come back to the present listening
-listen to what is driving the words, the feelings and values underneath
Alan Seale from Transformational Presence Coaching says “Deep listening is an art – it’s a combination of presence, awareness, intention, focus, and holding space.”
One of Alan’s coaches Rebecca Johns says it is ““Listening To, Listening For, and Listening From.”
I love this easy guide.
In listening to others,
What are you listening for?... A chance to negate? A chance to prove your knowledge? Or the other’s values?
And are you listening from kindness and curiousity or are you closed down, rushed or worried?
In an example Johns talks about how when coaching a leader about stress at work she offered that it could be about how they were listening to their team. Offering options about how the leader might be listening - “being the expert and being right” “being curious and open” ‘being the one to solve the teams problems” “being willing to learn something he didnt know”. The client learned that the story they had running in their mind and the listening that they had for their staff was that they had to solve the problems. When they opened up to being more curious the moment could teach them something different.
“I’ve become aware of how much we tend to listen from a perceived position or point of view, or how we listen for what we think they are going to say. And that gets in the way.” coach Rebecca Johns.
How many times do you think you do this? I do this more than I care to think. But we can develop this deeper awareness and improve our listening skills when we realise it’s importance.
And it’s importance is also able to go beyond the social benefit as we apply it in principle to more spiritual yearnings.
‘Dadirri’, the word for Deep Listening that Australian Aboriginal teacher and author Miriam rose shares with us, also means “awareness of where you've come from, why you are here, where are you going now and where you belong."
This description of deep listening is personal, transformative, speaks of belonging and aligns with the other spiritual traditions that honour your ‘true nature’ or ‘spiritual nature’.
For those who are interested in deep listening as a practice you can find out more about some of the different perspectives mentioned in this article here:
DEEP LISTENING REFLECTIONS
How are others listening to you? Are you living into their listening of you?
How are you listening to others? Could you find a more empowering way of listening to them for better outcomes?
Are you giving yourself enough time to listen to nature or music, to uplift you and connect you to something beyond yourself, to the mystery of life?
Are you giving yourself the time you desire to listen to the spaciousness/consciousness within?
Contact me to run a Women's Circle with your team, group of friends or join a circle that I am running to experience deep listening. 1:1 coaching is also available.