I spent the day today with a motivated group of women, who are also mothers, who volunteer in a specialist parenting organisation in my city. The training topic was the skill of real listening.Along with it came the awareness of how little we listen to others, and how little we are listened to.
Five minutes into the training, the faces of the trainees are always the same: a mixture of embarrassment, shame, vulnerability, confusion and mystification. They have just been introduced to a new definition of REAL listening - one that challenges almost everything they believe about what it means to be a good listener.
Few of us have been taught to listen properly. Some are naturally better at it than others. The beauty of attending a training course in the skill is that for the very first time, there is a moment to sit and work out what it feels like to be truly listened to, and how hard it is to provide that gift, hold that space for others.
Listening is often best described by what it is NOT rather than what it is. Resources on good, active listening abound on the internet. Check them out.
To become a better listener yourself, start practising on those around you. See how it feels different for you. See how they respond differently towards you when you listen well.
Then work out who in your life truly listens to you. Those are the people to turn to when you want someone to comfortably, but actively hold the space while you talk yourself through anything and everything troubling you.
Listening is a GIFT ... it is a loving action you can take for your partner, your family, your children (most importantly - then they will learn to listen well too) ... and anyone you share your life with.
There are plenty of people to talk to ... but few who will listen.