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  • The Forgotten Art of Listening

    Whilst watching ‘Dances with Wolves’ over Christmas I was transfixed by the scenes of the Sioux Indian conflabs in their teepees.

    In the film, they were having a meeting to discuss how to proceed with the solitary American soldier who had recently arrived at a nearby Fort.  What interested me was the way that they all listened, each person had their turn and each person was heard.

    This was such a stark contrast to many of the conversations I hear from day to day. People talking over each other, butting in and finishing off each other’s sentences. Sometimes you can even see the impatience as a person who is ‘listening’ has already decided what they are going to say next and is dying to speak. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said “There is a difference between truly listening and waiting for your turn to talk.”

    Does it really matter? Am I making too much of listening? I think not.

    Firstly we might think that the person who is always speaking is showing their wisdom or expertise but to quote the Dalai Lama, arguably one of the wisest men on earth “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”

    An idea shared by Bernard Baruch an American financier and statesman, who said “Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”

    Not only might you benefit intellectually from the act of really listening, but you also enhance the experience for the person who is speaking. Being truly heard and having the undivided attention of another person is truly magical. One of the main characteristics of a ‘charismatic personality’ is that they have the ability to make you feel like you are the only person in the room. You feel special because you feel heard.

    Finally if we just look at our physiology it seems only right that we should listen more.

    “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus

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    The art of listening