What is Effective Listening?

What is Effective Listening?  5 Steps to Improve Your Listening Skills and Your Relationships

What is effective listening?

Modern spiritual teacher, Master Charles Cannon, often asks us to consider the question:  What is your experience of life beyond your mind? In other words what is going on and who are you when you turn off your mind’s chatter?   What if we could learn to move to this place beyond the mind when someone is speaking to us?  How would this impact our listening skills and our relationships?
Most minds are full of running commentary about ourselves, other people, current events, deadlines, fears…the list goes on.  In addition, many of our thoughts are negative and full of judgment about these very same issues.

Needless to say all of this chatter and negativity interferes with our ability to listen effectively.  Not only are we likely to miss what the other person is actually trying to communicate but we are more apt to judge them harshly and interrupt them with something our mind just knows is more important.
The result is miscommunication and erosion of trust in relationships.

Achieving Effective Listening.
In order to truly listen and communicate we must first be in a state of balance and openness.
Primary causes of poor listening and unsatisfactory communication are a mind and emotions that are out of balance. Individuals who experience this state of imbalance (and that would be most of us at one time or another) are a reflection of the distraction going on within themselves.  The result can be ineffective listening and inappropriate responses to what the other person is saying.  
We’ve all experienced occasions when someone unexpectedly reacted angrily to another person.  We may be shocked because the response seems out of proportion to what was actually said.  Most of us have also been guilty of judging what another is saying or perhaps comparing ourselves to the speaker and feeling either inadequate or superior.   We may even wish to be elsewhere tuning out the other person all together. 

 Any of these responses interferes with communication, and all of them reflect an imbalance of one kind or another.  One key to better listening then is to achieve enough balance to permit us to hear the other person more clearly.

Here are five steps to help us do just that:
1.    When someone else is speaking, choose to be present with them giving them your total focus in the moment.  If you feel yourself reacting or lost in your own train of thought, gently bring your focus back to the conversation.
2.    Be aware that you can listen with all your dimensions, physical, mental and emotional.
3.    Notice your body.  Are you relaxed?  If you feel tense, shift your focus to your breath as you continue to listen and then notice how your body starts to relax.
4.    Bring mental focus to the conversation.  If you realize you are already formulating a response to what the other person is saying, or if you have wandered off to some other topic all together gently bring your mind back to the conversation at hand.
5.    Consciously open your heart to the person with whom you are engaged.  Flow positive emotions their way as you listen to what they have to say.
What are your experiences with listening?   Did these five steps make a difference in you communication?  If so what differences did you notice?