What is Deep Listening?

Photo by Carlo Nicora
By Joe Bailey

Deep listening occurs when your mind is quiet.

Your thoughts are flowing rather than crowding your mind with distractions, interpretations, judgments, conclusions, or assumptions. Your mind is open, curious, interested — as though you were hearing this person for the first time. Deep listening applies not only to communication with another, but also to listening to ourselves and to life in general. The goal of deep listening is to hear beyond the words of the other person and yourself, to the essence of what the words and feelings are pointing to. Your mind and heart are joined in union — you are listening wholeheartedly.

Deep listening is effortless; it is more like listening lightly to your favorite music, the sound of a stream rushing by, or a bird singing. When we listen to these delightful sounds we are under no pressure, we aren’t analyzing or figuring out — we are simply letting the feelings and sounds affect us. Deep listening is not defensive, argumentative, or intrusive. It is not about struggling to analyze or interpret. It is a purely receptive state of mind. In a state of deep listening, we realize our oneness. We realize that we are not separate, but truly one spirit — we are connected.

When we listen deeply, we let go of any beliefs we have about the other person.
We let go of our prejudices and past memories of him or her.

Here is an example of deep listening in action.

One day, Julie and Jeff were talking about the possibility of getting together with another couple that lived on the other side of the country. On prior occasions, every time Jeff would bring up the possibility, he sensed that Julie had a resistance to it. This time, she opened the subject.

She said, “Let’s talk about getting together with Bob and Celeste.”

“I get the feeling you aren’t sure about getting together with them, is that right?” Jeff asked.

“I’m not exactly sure what’s going on with me about it. Can you just listen to me for a moment till I get some clarity?”

“Sure.” Jeff cleared his mind of his agenda and just listened to her. He opened himself up to seeing a new possibility.

She said, “I want to get together with them, but I just feel like staying home at this point. After the holidays and all the traveling we did this fall, I don’t seem to be interested in doing anything but staying home. Perhaps they could come here? Maybe we could tell them we’d like to get together and let them know we’d like them to come here.”

“I’m open to that. I’ll call them and take it to the next step and see what happens.”

As it turned out, other circumstances came up, and their friends couldn’t get together with them anyway. If Jeff had tried to pursue his agenda of going out West, it would have been a waste of time. More importantly, by not pressing his point and by being open to what his wife had to say, Julie felt heard and respected for her feelings.

In the past, Jeff might have handled this situation differently. He might have had thoughts like, “She never wants to do anything!” He would have tried to logically convince her of why they should go where their friends live: because it was warmer there, because they lived by the ocean, or whatever else supported his agenda.

In contrast, deep listening enabled Jeff to understand and respect Julie’s feelings, and he felt fine about the outcome of their talk. This non-pressured approach to listening helped Julie to sort out her own feelings, which is conducive to gaining insights. And he felt loving, secure, and quiet while he was deeply listening to Julie.

This interaction led to a feeling of closeness and connection between Jeff and Julie. It helped him to see the situation in a new way and to let go of his agenda, and it helped her get clarity on what she wanted to do.

The goal of deep listening is to be touched by the other person and to hear the essence of what he or she is saying. Deep listening is based on a feeling of unconditional love and respect. It stems from our natural Self, from timeless love. In addition, it slows you down to the speed of love.

Reprinted with permission from “Slowing Down to the Speed of Love” by Joe Bailey.

About the author

Mary Jaksch

Mary is passionate about helping people create a happy, purposeful, and fulfilling life. She is the founder of GoodlifeZEN and also the brains behind WritetoDone.com, one of the biggest blogs for writers on the Net. Mary is also a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

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