Listening Well: Heart, Mind & Body
Heart. Mind. Body.
Let’s talk more about listening well. Listening well involves the heart, activates in the mind, and expresses itself in the body.
We start by wanting to listen, valuing the other person and caring for them. Listening is an act of caring, and that’s why it starts with the heart. We begin by preparing our hearts to be open to someone, to love them and to want to be part of sharing with them as they speak. This isn’t romantic love, or just a warm fuzzy feeling, but it’s the kind of love which comes from understanding that God loves them and values them, and so they are important to me as well. I begin by cultivating a heart that is open to the one speaking.
Next we make the choice to listen; this is where our minds come in. It’s a play on words, but while we may not always have a choice when it come to hearing something, we can always make the choice to listen. I need to clear my mind of other distractions, set aside other things I’ve been thinking about and bring the person speaking into focus. I have to stop my mind, rally my attention and turn it to the one speaking, concentrating on what they say and how they say it.
Finally, our bodies help us to bring the other person into focus. We put down our phones and close our notebook computers to avoid their distracting screens and notifications. We make eye contact. We use our body language, facial expressions and even our words to convey that we are ready to listen. When someone comes to me and says they need to share something, or maybe I see in their face and body language how important something is going to be, I can say “Just a moment, my mind is spinning” and I stop to take a deep breath, put down my phone and then give them my full attention and say, “Ok, I’m settled and better ready to listen now.”
Decisions & Practices
This is very similar to conversations I’ve been in dealing with topics like eating and studying. Have you been in a conversation with someone about the benefits of not always forcing down meals as fast as possible to get back to work, but slowing down to better enjoy the food and allow our bodies a chance to digest things? When it’s time to read, pray or study do you find the best place to sit, make sure the lighting is good and that you have all the materials you need like reading glasses, a journal and your favorite writing pen and highlighter? We know that investing time and energy to prepare for meals and for study will pay off. If listening is important, then it shouldn’t be taken for granted. We should develop habits and personal practices which help us enter a posture of listening well.
We use our hearts, minds and bodies to prepare ourselves and to listen. These are decisions we make (caring and focusing) and practices we exercise (putting aside distractions and making eye contact) which will pay a rich dividend of better conversations and stronger relationships.
“If, then, there is any comfort in Christ, any consolation from love, any partnership in the Spirit, any tender affection and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others.”
St. Paul in Philippians 2:1-4, NRSVue
Be blessed, Rev Todd