As an introvert, I do a lot of listening. However, I have noticed that when I am in a group and think I am listening, quite often I have tuned out and am lost in my own thoughts. That doesn’t happen near as often when I am with one person, sharing in conversation.
Clearly there are times when I am with someone who is a “talker” and our conversation is mostly a monologue. I find this need to talk comes either from being alone most of the time or from not being listened to by anyone. So when I care about someone, I simply listen as the rattle on. Pretty soon however, the pace slows down and the content of the conversation takes on substance and if we are lucky, a true conversation can begin. If it doesn’t, then at least the other person who needed to be heard got a chance.
There are other conversations that we can have that we might call discussions. In these two or more people tackle a subject, tear it apart, analyze it, chew it up and finally spit it out. The whole idea is to analyze the subject, look for answers, agreements or results. These discussions can be extremely stimulating.
Then, there is what we call a dialogue. You might think that discussion and dialogue are the same thing but in truth, dialogue happens in a uniquely different way. The meaning of the word dialogue is “words flowing through.” This is really very different from discussion. Here we have a completely open-ended exploration where all parties enter with the spirit of inquiry. A discussion is something that arises out of the intellect and a dialogue comes straight from the heart.
We can see the difference quite easily if we look at how we might approach a conversation about a truly “difficult” subject, one that has many emotional triggers for the people involved. If this is the case, discussion would build walls between them, when dialogue offers the hope of true understanding.
Listening to another is for most, a learned skill. Listening and truly hearing can be the most valuable gift we can give another. Listening involves letting go of the need to speak, the need to counter, the need to give advice and to simply open and receive what another needs to say to us. In requires that we become still and open to receive. We suspend our judgments and assumptions, and listen to understand rather than agree.
Certainly, in this process of listening, we can offer acknowledgement of what is being said along the way but we don’t take away the conversation from them. We give of ourselves in this way to allow the other to unfold. For me this is “heart listening.”
I have found, for myself, that this kind of listening becomes a gift for me as well. When I can open myself in this way to another, my soul is able to touch their soul in a sacred communion of being.
When I deeply listen to you
it is as though
all the walls I have built around myself
That space between us
no longer exists
as a boundary between strangers.
The oneness of who we are
and the whole of who we are
create new patterns of being.
When I deeply listen to you
understanding and a deep knowing
of our shared experience
connects me to you in a way that is holy.