You may think you’re a good listener but are you an authentic one?
Being good at something denotes being capable but having authenticity in a skill denotes sincerity and passion. I’ve considered myself a good listener for most of my adult life but lately, I am striving to be an authentic listener.
A good listener understands the basics of what is referred to as “active listening” (eye contact, showing empathy, paying attention, not interrupting…etc.) and I agree these skills are effective in relationship building. However, the practice of being an authentic listener takes place before the conversation starts. It’s both a profound yet simple mental shift.
The shift is this: the consistent willingness to be changed by something another person might say, even if it’s in some minute way. This requires a level of vulnerability and abandonment of ego that most of us on a daily basis are not willing to do. Are you willing and open to being changed by another person’s words? If so, I call this listening with authenticity or authentic listening.
Why are we so hesitant to do this? Why are we afraid to listen in this way?
Because, consciously or unconsciously we are so focused on what we want to teach, preach or bestow upon others, we forget there may be some learning to do or some insight to gain from someone else’s experiences.
There’s also the fear that if we’re open to personal change and to someone making an impact on us, that we will lose control. And, many of us are ultimately terrified of losing control. So, what do we do to maintain control? We focus on what we want to say next. We interrupt. We dominate. We raise our voice. And, sometimes we shut down. We find ourselves right back where we were when the conversation started.
When you are listening to someone speak, how often do you find yourself saying or thinking, “I never thought of it that way.”? If your answer is never, you may have some work to do. The frequency of which you think this or speak this phrase is a good barometer of how authentic of a listener you really are.
Authentic listening asks us to enter conversations the same way we enter theaters, open books, or click on articles. Not just with the expectation of being entertained but with the hope of learning something, of being inspired, of being changed. In the same way a play, a film or a book can lift us up, speak to our humanity, and make us better so can conversations with other humans but only if we are listening with authenticity.
Imagine being willing to brave this level of vulnerability in your daily conversations. Could it really change your relationships for the better? I think it can do that, and more.
I think it can change the world.
Our culture now more than ever is calling for authentic listeners, in a time where we are all just waiting to be triggered into anger so we can prove our points, win an argument or stand on a soapbox. What if instead of that negative anticipation, there was a positive expectation of being changed for the better through dialogue with another person? Could these dialogues also lead to deeper connection, developing thoughtful solutions to problems, or making progress? I think yes!
Practice with sincerity and passion the mental shift of authentic listening, and experience your relationships deepen, your insights increase and your world change.
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