From the Let Love Show Collection
Intention to Listen Fully
One graceful way to let love show is to listen attentively to others. As Stephen Covey explained in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the principles of empathic communication begin when we seek first to understand, then to be understood. Dr. Covey wrote, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Too often it is our habit to want to be understood before we try to understand another’s feelings or point of view.
Listening fully is about making a compassionate connection with another person. To become better listeners some of us learned the skills of active listening. Probing and paraphrasing messages is merely a stepping-stone toward achieving empathic communication. Poorly employed active listening techniques can insult a speaker. Correctly paraphrasing a message is beyond parroting words. And, asking probing questions in a condescending tone puts a halt to open dialogue. Seeking to understand may require asking questions, and questions need to be asked without a tone of challenge or judgment. If we listen for content alone, we might miss the most significant portion of the speaker’s intent. The tone of voice and body language convey more of the speaker’s meaning than the words. Listening fully includes not only understanding and valuing the words spoken, but also connecting with the feelings expressed through body language and tone of voice.
A challenge frequently encountered in the listening process is our tendency to evaluate what is heard. We have the habit of quickly agreeing or disagreeing with messages. Our mind is wired to place what we hear into the context of our own beliefs and knowledge. That happens naturally with the intent to understand. However, this listening habit is autobiographical. Without our conscious awareness, often when we encounter a message with which we disagree, our ability to understand is hampered. Suddenly, we are listening to evaluate. Our judgment causes us to react and reply rather than seek to understand.
Cultivating our oneness, we release any shame attached to our present listening habits. We all have the desire to feel understood. Think of how respected, acknowledged, or loved you feel when you know someone gets you. It is worthwhile to do your best to allow others to feel respected, recognized, and loved by listening to them. When we demonstrate a commitment to the practice of letting love show, one of our gifts of love is to listen fully to others.
I wrote in “Setting Intentions Compared to Holding Expectations” that exercising new skills takes effort and focus. Joshua promotes practicing without expectations of perfection. Perfecting our abilities is not a practical aim. Practicing any new skill is an intention held loosely. Accept that mistakes will occur in the process of learning new listening skills.
I want to close with another insight from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival—to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, and to be appreciated.” We let love show as we give these simple gifts to others.
Intention to Listen Fully: I practice a new habit of seeking first to understand—then to be understood. I intend to listen fully to others as a simple demonstration of their importance to me. I listen and watch for the feelings expressed within the messages I receive, and I open my heart and mind with empathy. I accept that I am practicing new skills, and I allow myself and others the grace of imperfect practice. I retain my desire to feel understood, affirmed, validated and appreciated, and I practice giving these priceless gifts to others with love.