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Are you a stingy listener? The art of really listening and why it matters

The art of listening

I remember years ago my Dad said to me ‘you are a great listener Jojo’.  It stuck with me.  We have two ears and one mouth for a reason, but sometimes listening can be difficult when we feel distracted, stressed or angry.  There are also occasions that we feel an urge for our voice to be heard.  I’ll be frank, if I am on national radio, talking about a subject I am passionate about, and I only have a few minutes air time, I will be cramming the words in.  It’s important that we use our voice.  But sometimes we can get a bit excited, which prevents us from listening as hard as we could or should.  We can all be prone to becoming a stingy listener. 

Listening is an art and it takes practise.  But when we show up fully with people and listen in the moment, with an open mind, we have a more meaningful and fulfilling time.  Running my own podcast and getting the opportunity to speak live on radio has given me a new found appreciation of how important it is to really listen.  I’m talking some serious transformational dialogue.  I have been exploring the many labels we take on and carry.  A few months ago, an old friend sent me an image with the definition of what it means to be an extrovert and an introvert.  Apparently the ‘extrovert’ is the life and soul of the party, more interested in surface level stuff and the ‘introvert’ is all about the deep and meaningful conversations.  The image frustrated me because I love having fun and not taking myself too seriously, but I also love a deep conversation.  I don’t like the way that society enforces a message that we have to be one or the other.

I often give talks about how we can listen harder and show empathy to others.  This really matters because so many of us feel like we don’t have a voice.  When we feel unheard in the workplace or at home, it’s not good for the mojo.  In fact, a lack of connection is seriously dangerous for our overall health.  If you are self aware,. you may feel your throat tighten up due to the mind, body connection.  You may experience serious backache, like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.  Perhaps you experience stomach pain due to the anxiety this brings.  Don’t worry, it’s normal.  I talk to a lot of people, this comes up time and time again.  So look a little closer.  Take the time out to do a body scan and think about your life and the areas that you feel could improve.  Be honest.

When we take the time to listen harder, we are making a difference.  If you listen harder to even one person, this could impact the mental health of an entire family.  So let’s work together to create a ripple effect and listen harder.  Let’s give more people a voice.

Here are my tips for listening all in.  Because I don’t feel fulfilled when I am a stingy listener.  We are made for more.

Be sincere
Show up fully.  Be sincere and down to earth.  Don’t pretend to be someone you are not.  Try and drop the labels.  I get it, it’s tempting to show off.  We are all wired with an ego.  But once we push the labels aside, we don’t need to drop in names or labels to show off.  We simply just need to show up as we are.  To hold space for people who need to offload. You must be sincere in your actions in order to build mutual trust – the foundation for any successful relationship.
Spending time in the coaching space reminded me of how important it is to seek clarity.  Ask open ended questions, stay curious.  Be prepared to have a fascinating conversation with everyone that you meet.
Eye contact
Eye contact is the most intimacy two people can have – forget sex – because the optic nerve is technically an extension of the brain, and when two people look into each other’s eyes, it’s brain to brain 🧠
Try not to compare
Take time to step back from your own story and any unconscious biases you may have.  Remind yourself that we are all equal and we all have a point to make.  Granted, sometimes people will put up a wall or they may not be in a place that they feel they can share.  Be kind and compassionate, knowing that at least you tried to connect.
Don’t rush it
When we allow ourselves to get lost in the conversation, to welcome any silence or pauses, to hold space for others, powerful stuff can happen.  So, if possible, don’t rush it.
Don’t take yourself too seriously
I have had some pretty intense conversations in my time, but laughing and having fun is also an important part of this process.  I also like to put on some music after a podcast and have a good dance around, to shake it all off.  It’s great for the soul.
The ability to listen well is an art.  It can take practise, but it’s worth it.  Two ears, one mouth.  Be a leader that listens because that’s when we really grow and make a difference.

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