“My son, pay attention to my wisdom; lend your ear to my understanding, that you may preserve discretion, and your lips may keep knowledge.” Proverbs 5:1-2
To lend one’s ear is an idiom that means to listen. You’ve probably heard it multiple times. But what does it really mean- to listen?
Listening is a skill we use everyday. We listen to the news, our playlists, instructions, and even strangers’ conversations. It’s an automatic response, a part of who we are as humans. But in today’s society where different forms of unnecessary noise try to get our attention, we tend to neglect the fact that listening is the foundation of effective communication.
We listen to reply. We listen because we might have a motive or hidden agenda. We listen to judge. But have we ever paused and actually listened to what our parent or friend has to say? Active listening is listening that requires effort. It’s all about mindfully paying attention, comprehending, and reflecting on what another has to say. Oftentimes, the cause of misunderstanding among us humans is our failure to listen. We let our preconceived notions and prejudice get to the situation first. Here are some tips to follow for active listening:
Be in the moment.
There are many roadblocks to communication. These can be external or internal noise surrounding us, but we can filter them out and redirect our attention to the person we are speaking to. Face that person and listen to every word he/she has to say. Avoid entertaining interrupting thoughts in your mind. To listen to someone and truly hear what he/she wants to say is to honor and respect that person’s being.
As much as possible, avoid interrupting when someone is talking. Interruption might lead the person you are talking to the impression that you’re not interested in what he/she is saying. Try to imagine being in that person’s place: “What would you feel if the friend you’re venting your feelings to is obviously just pretending to listen? It’s also important to say thank you and to throw in some words of encouragement every now and then. Trust also plays a huge part in conversations. When you listen to someone, trust is formed between both the sharer and you, the listener.
Reflect and Share.
There is glory in contemplation. When we read novels, we get absorbed in the characters and our minds are filled with wonder and anticipation. We should also apply this in our conversations. When we listen to someone, a part of them talks to us, a part that’s made up of all that person’s experiences, ideals, and perspectives. Try to give them your honest and constructive feedback. Share something similar, but substantial. Remember to not always make it about you as well. Make it a back and forth sharing of stories. Active listening makes someone feel validated and important. If you have no idea how to respond after everything’s been said, a pat on the back could do wonders to one’s disposition.
The next time you’re about to engage in a conversation or just listen to a speaker or a podcast, put your active listening skill to use. Listen to someone like you would to your favorite song. Within every sentence is a message; within every message is a nugget of wisdom.