By: Jessica Manuel
It is easy to know when someone is not listening to you. Their answers can seem pre-meditated or their comments have no relevance to what you’re saying. This can leave you feeling misunderstood or disrespected, and can ruin a friendship or limit the desire to speak to them again.
The school system teaches us that listening is important in order to pass the tests, but it doesn’t stop there. Listening is foundational to building healthy relationships, avoiding mistakes and gaining respect; if you are a good listener, you will be on a ‘fast track’ to success.
Intentionally listening to peoples mistakes and successes will give you knowledge. We tend to listen to people that produce results or are seen as ‘successful’, but the best knowledge you can acquire is by listening to stories of struggle. The unfortunate reality is that we live in a society that doesn’t always encourage vulnerability or full transparency. We may feel that vulnerability is a form of weakness or assume that it will cause pain and disappointment— it’s safer to be silent, no?
As a motivational speaker, I know that my best speeches required me to be extremely vulnerable. It didn’t matter who was in the crowd or what their past was like; the audience related to my story because they all struggled too (go figure!). Even though my story was relatable, to share a story of struggle in public is still a rarity today— so people listen.
If everyone would listen intently and cast aside judgement, people that have overcome trials and tribulations would be comfortable and confident to share their story like the successful share theirs. Giving those people a platform to speak about “breaking the chain” of their circumstances would be far more valuable to those in need.
People who are struggling will listen to those who have struggled.
It took me years to understand that listening was powerful, more powerful than talking. There were times when I focused on my response before someone was done talking. The voices in my own head would drown out anything the person was saying in front of me. Also, I remember instances when I would blurt out ‘answers’ before they were done asking the question. I would check my phone or the daily to-do list, saying ‘mm-hmm’, not really paying attention at all.
Then I started noticing others doing it to me- how rude!
Acknowledging how it made me feel was the start to listening differently. I started noticing that when people listened with their heart how powerful and engaging that was. Most importantly, I began to understand what people deserved- my full attention.
I want to encourage you to invest in the people around you. Listen to not only their words, listen to their tone of voice, body language and posture. If you engage your heart and tune out the voice in your head, you’ll uncover opportunities to love and understand other people better. Take an opportunity to give someone the gift of your presence- and be present for it. Your ears may be all they need to have hope again; your empathy could break chains that weigh them down. At the end of the day, you don’t know who is watching.
Show everyone the success that comes from the simplicity of silence.