If speaking is silver, then listening is gold. — Turkish Proverb
The year’s end is a natural time for reflection. I enjoy looking back at the past year – appreciating the successes and joys, considering what I’d like to do differently. I make resolutions most years. Sometimes they include typical themes like weight loss, but usually there are a few concrete goals to guide me through the year. A few years ago, I began recording these in a journal along with a few other notes and inspirations that speak to important and thought-provoking experiences like attending a retreat or processing a heartbreak. Yearly re-reading inspires new reflections and goals.
I chuckled while recently revisiting one of my past resolution themes: Listen. Listen. Listen. Yes, it was there three times. It was almost as though I was shaking myself to get my attention – shouting even. As a mediator, I listen professionally and I realize its importance, but it’s much harder for me to do in daily life. You can probably relate. But listening is a cornerstone for broad, long term goals like having rich and loving personal relationships and a strong and effective professional referral network.
Effective listening – NOT the same as hearing – is a critical life skill that can be learned. To learn it well, you must PRACTICE. Perhaps improving your listening should be one of your new year’s resolutions. It’s a great pick because it improves all aspects of your life, while also benefiting those around you. Madelyn Burley-Allen, author of Listening: The Forgotten Skill, writes that when we listen deeply, we:
- acknowledge the speaker
- increase the speaker’s self-esteem and confidence
- tell the speaker, “You are important” and “I am not judging you”
- gain the speaker’s cooperation
- reduce stress and tension
- build teamwork
- gain trust
- elicit openness
- gain a sharing of ideas and thoughts
- obtain more valid information about the speaker and the subject
If you’d like some guidance and practice in developing your listening skills, stay tuned for our winter 2016 Listening Skills workshop. Listening is at the heart of a healthy approach to minimizing conflicts and resolving them productively.