Listening--really listening--takes practice.
You can even practice it alone.
Set a stopwatch. For 15 seconds, stay quiet and listen.
What do you hear? Try it again and see if you can hear more this time. What new sounds were there?
Try it now with another person. Ask someone you care about to help you. Have them tell you a short story, something that happened during their day, anything at all. Notice your mind begin to wander. It will. Because we can listen faster than people talk, our minds can wander. We go to our thoughts about what's for dinner, or how we can fix the other person's problem, or how many ways they could have done that differently.
And.... because you're practicing, go back to the speaker. Use the extra brain-space to re-focus, become mindful and listen more deeply--for what's not being said and for other pieces of this person's story.
After a few minutes, ask the speaker to give you feedback on how present you were with them. Did they feel heard? Were you there?
Listening is one way to become mindful and present. To practice centering. You can do it anytime, anywhere--home, office, walking, running, swimming, spinning. Yoga, Tai Ch'i, and Qigong environments are especially conducive, because they are already quiet, focused, mindful.
Brenda Ueland wrote: When we listen to people there is an alternating current that recharges us so we never get tired of each other. We are constantly being re-created. She calls it The Art of Listening.
Danelle LaPorte quotes Bix Bickson as saying: Listening is giving the other person the experience of being heard.
I'm not sure there is a greater gift. Can you recall times someone has given you such a gift? Please write and tell me about it in the "Comments" area below.