I thought I was a good listener for a very long time... can you see where I'm going with this? Ha!
I was not a good listener. Somehow along my path I developed the belief that giving people good advice was equatable to being a good listener, or that being able to win a fight meant I was a good listener. As it were, my beliefs weren't true, nor did I know how poor a listener I was...until I took a workshop on communication. I've taken a few workshops on communication to-date, and read a great many books on the subject. The information I received learning to listen has really changed my life for the better; and it's likely improved the lives of the people who are close to me, because I'm an easier person to talk to nowadays.
Some people have difficulty talking or communicating how they feel; but nearly everyone has difficulty listening. For the most part, this collective failure at listening is the byproduct of a single action: we are thinking instead of listening. Here's a couple of examples:
An office manager is offering an employee constructive criticism; and while the manager is talking, the employee is thinking about how to defend their behavior, or how they can avoid exhibiting the behavior that lead to the current discussion.
Mr. Smith is upset because his wife spent too much money on their children, and is yelling at her. Mrs. Smith is thinking about how her husband is an a**hole for yelling at her, and how he doesn't care about their children.
Suzy Q. is telling her best friend, Marsha, about her terrible day at work; but Marsha is thinking about how she's exasperated by Suzy Q.'s work stories.
It is possible the active talkers in these scenarios are contributing to poor communication; but for now, the focus is on listening. None of the listeners in these scenarios are actively listening to the active talker, and it is very rare that people do. Our minds are very overactive- the human mind monster, left unattended, jumps into action at the onset of any stimulus.
There are three forces to defeat to become a good active listener: the mind, our emotions, and our biology. Okay, so defeating biology is a tall order; but one really doesn't have to defeat biology. If one defeats the mind and emotions, they've generally landed a victory over biology. The biological aspect of listening has to do with "fight or flight", if a human being enters a conversation that triggers an adrenaline dump, they find themselves in a very irrational mental space. It isn't hard to trigger a human is it? Just the words, "Can we talk about something?", triggers a lot of humans, right? We're so funny, humans are so funny.
Our biology really does represent the unconscious animal in us, but the mind and emotions represent the conscious animal in us. If we can control the mind and emotions, the conscious animal takes the unconscious animal for a ride, versus the other way around.
I want to offer you a three step process for being a better listener, not just because I love checklists, but also because being a better listener will help you connect to Spirit as well. For those of you who are developing a connection with Spirit, you have likely noticed how often the mind and emotions get in the way of that process.
"Agh, Spirit is giving me this image, it looks like silly putty, what the hell is it? Maybe if I try to zoom in on this silly putty looking thing I can figure out what it is....is it silly putty? Why would Spirit give me an image of silly putty?!"
Meanwhile, that image has disappeared, and the mind effectively created an image of silly putty thereafter.
"Spirit just gave me a word...I think it was 'Snazoodle'...is 'Snazoodle' even a word? Think back to Scrabble on family game night..."
There's no chance of clairaudience in this scenario, one wouldn't be able to hear Spirit over that ramble!
Being a good listener is synonymous with being a good receiver; and Spirit Communication is about half mind/emotion control, half reception. Being a good receiver in the physical universe is great practice for being a good receiver in the non-physical universe.
Give this three step process a try throughout your daily life, and during your Spiritual Practice. Perhaps it will give you an advantage to see and hear things you would have missed otherwise.
Step 1: Meditate. Have you noticed this is almost always the first step in any checklist I offer you?! It's important! Do it!
Step 2: Ask your mind to "shut up" the moment someone starts talking. That's right, boss your mind monster around a little bit! Tell your mind to "cool it", and really focus on the words and body language of the person talking to you. Don't think about what they are saying, just observe them, and take the information in. Make a point to repeat what the person said back to them, not just to let them know you were listening, but to clarify what you have received is accurate.
"So, Office Manager, what I'm hearing is that when I take xerox copies of my face during work hours, it distracts other employees, and that you'd like me to stop the behavior."
Tell the mind to "shut up", observe and receive, and then repeat the information received.
Step 3: Recognize and identify any emotional reaction you have, and refuse to give it power. If/when you have emotions bubble up, using your controlled mind, recognize and identify those emotions: anger, fear, sadness, confusion, overwhelm, etc. Try your best not to push those emotions down, they don't go out that way, but instead push them over to the side for you to observe. Go back to listening after you have identified the emotion. Do your best to analyze your emotional responses outside of the conversation: "Why did I have that emotional reaction?" The more you objectively observe and analyze your negative emotional reactions (without blame), the more you will see a decrease in these reactions. When we refuse to give our emotional responses power, and instead observe and analyze, we are actively healing the parts in ourselves that are triggered. If you're super emotional during a conversation, maybe take a moment to express that to your conversation partner.
"Okay, husband, I hear you saying that you're mad that I spent money on the children, and I want to listen; but I'm feeling really angry right now in this conversation, and I need a moment to breathe."
Hey, that's okay if you need a moment to collect yourself. You're a human being, you're going to do human being things like FEEL. Take a few deep breaths, recognize a bear isn't chasing you, and re-enter the conversation.
Learning to listen isn't an easy lesson. Perhaps it's difficult because of how casual we view communication: "Hi there, look at the weather!" We often forget how important communication is, and how devastating miscommunication can be. Furthermore, listening is a vulnerable act. Receiving is a vulnerable act. Vulnerability can be very frightening, can't it? It just takes practice. Practicing mind control and emotional control can make vulnerability a lot easier. So often, we block out things that make us feel vulnerable because we're scared; but when we take control, and choose vulnerability, it feels good! Allow the flow of communication to occur in your life day to day, it will help you learn and grow from others; and it's good practice for communicating with Spirit.