I like to think I’m a good listener. Most of us do. But the truth is, listening is an active practice and one that most of us struggle with when we are busy, distracted, or in need of time to think. But listening is so critical to how others feel seen and heard. It can make or break a relationship in family, romance, or at work.
This book is a good balance of practices we need to use to better engage in listening to others and the science of how our brains work, why we need to protect our hearing, putting distractions aside, and the way that listening impacts depression and isolation. This year…2020…of all years we need to be better listeners and more open to hearing others and truly seeing what they need to share.
To listen well is to figure out what’s on someone’s mind and demonstrate that you care enough to want to know. It’s what we all crave; to be understood as a person with thoughts, emotions, and intentions that are unique and valuable and deserving of attention.
Listening is not about teaching, shaping, critiquing, appraising, or showing how it should be done (“Here, let me show you.” “Don’t be shy.” “That’s awesome!” “Smile for Daddy.”). Listening is about the experience of being experienced. It’s when someone takes an interest in who you are and what you are doing. The lack of being known and accepted in this way leads to feelings of inadequacy and emptiness. What makes us feel most lonely and isolated in life is less often the result of a devastating traumatic event than the accumulation of occasions when nothing happened but something profitably could have. It’s the missed opportunity to connect when you weren’t listening or someone wasn’t really listening to you.