Learning to Listen
Updated: Apr 30, 2021
... And Listening to Learn
These days there is so much going on in the news , so many articles to read, endless opinions being shared, open and peaceful dialogue, as well as hate-filled noise all competing for our attention. It can be hard to know when to tune in or out, or even if we are really listening at all.
Learning how to listen is not an easy skill. In university I volunteered for an information, referral, listening, and crisis support phone service. In our training I was surprised by how much time we spent practicing listening and just how hard it can be to be a good, active listener —how to listen without judgement, without pushing our own advice, and without getting our own egos involved. Way easier said than done! To be a good listener means to be present without distractions and without thinking about what we’ll say next the whole time someone else is speaking. It means to be curious and open hearted to the possibility of ideas and information from outside ourselves that might expand our own knowledge and maybe even lead to growth.
If you want to dance to the music , you need to listen before you can move. You need to identify where the beats are, try to understand patterns, and take in all the rhythms you hear. We can’t expect ourselves to be able to follow along if we’re simultaneously glued to our phones, talking to the person next to us, or insistent that we know all the moves even before the music starts.
Likewise, the same attention to and presence in listening that we use in each class can be a great skill to practice in the outside world. The beats, the pauses and silences in between, the words of others, conversations with people both alike and dissimilar can help us learn so much about others and ourselves—if we are mindful that we must learn how to listen and listen in order to learn.