Leading up to the holidays I spent so much time determining the best gifts to give family members. Will she like a scarf or new sweater, how about a video game or lawn darts? Let’s flip this thinking upside down. Instead of a thing, how about giving the nontangible gift of being present and listening?
In my frenetic pace of working mom, wife, school board member, etc. I find it hard to make time for just being present with those I care about at home and at the office. When I slow down and just settle in to being available and focus on listening to what others care about, I am rewarded with enriched connections. It feels good.
A prerequisite to listening is an authentic intention to care for and desire to understand another. Listening for information is common, but when you pay attention to the emotions involved and possibly what is not being said, we listen at a much deeper level.
The first, and most difficult step to listening, is to quiet your mind. Listening requires us to focus on what is being said. It does not involve preparing our rebuttal. Because the mind works faster than words can be formed and spoken, our minds race ahead. We draw conclusions, finish sentences, or worse drift off to think about something totally unrelated to what they are saying. I find taking a deep breath and consciously suspending judgement helps me to quiet my mind.
I believe that a deep human need is to be heard, and to believe we have value in the world. Truly being present and listening to another is a gift that costs nothing to give and will be appreciated at a deep level.