Archive for September 2008

The Power of Listening

September 30, 2008

How well do you listen to the people around you? For many of us, myself included, listening can be challenging at times. We’re often busy, focused on ourselves and what we want to say, evaluating the person speaking and what they’re saying, distracted with all the other things we think we “should” be doing instead of listening to them, and more. With this and others things getting in our way, it’s amazing that we ever hear anything that anyone says at all.

However, listening is not only the most important aspect of communication – it can make or break our relationships. Our ability to appreciate, respond to, and empower others is based on our ability to listen to them in an empowering and open way.

There are three levels of listening and some important things we can do to become more effective in our ability to listen to others:

  • Be Present – Give the person your full attention (stop typing, watching TV, or doing anything else). Multi-tasking doesn’t work when you’re listening to others. When we’re present, we’re able to actually hear what they’re saying, get the information, and pay attention to them in a way that has them feel acknowledged and important.
  • Make an Emotional Connection – Once we’re present and actually hear what they’re saying, we have the ability to listen between the words. This allows us to hear and feel what they truly mean, understand where they’re coming from, and know what they want. When we connect with the person emotionally, it’s much easier to resolve a conflict, understand them, or figure out how to support them.
  • Listen in an Empowering Way – Pay attention to the opinion you have about the person or what they’re saying. If your opinion is empowering (i.e. positive), great. If not, see if you can “upgrade” it (i.e. find the good stuff). This is not about agreeing with or liking everyone, it’s about taking responsibility for our judgments and realizing that our opinions color what we hear and how we hear it. It’s difficult to have an empowering or positive conversation with someone whom we judge in a negative way. It may take some work on our part to find the good stuff or work through our issues with the person, but if we’re committed to having healthy communications and relationships, identifying our judgments and doing whatever we can to move through them will allow us to listen to others in an empowering way.

When we’re able to do the internal work it takes to become a better listener (slow down, pay attention, be present, connect with people, be honest, let go of our self righteous judgments, and more) we can enhance our relationships in a profound way.

With the rushed and judgmental nature of life, business, and culture today, being someone who has the ability to really listen to others is such a vital skill and such a blessing to all of those around you. It’s not always easy, it takes some practice and humility, and is an on-going, moment-by-moment phenomenon. However, listening to others can allow for so many positive things:

  • Improved communication
  • Resolved conflicts
  • Deeper connection
  • Greater appreciation
  • Enhanced understanding
  • Increased learning
  • Profound awareness

Have fun with it as you practice. See if you can put some attention today and the rest of this week on taking time to really listen to the people around you. I bet they will love it and you’ll be amazed at what happens.

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Being in Awe of Life

September 17, 2008

The birth of our new baby girl, Annarose, reminded me in a profound way of the miracle of life. What a magical, remarkable, and breathtaking experience it is to witness and participate in the birth of another human being.

As I have had a few weeks to digest this a bit, to connect with my beautiful new daughter and my family, and to experience the range of emotions that often accompany a life-altering event like this, I’ve been reminded of so many aspects of life that are truly miraculous.

As Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” There is so much for us to be in awe of in life if we stop and pay attention. From the most profound to the mere mundane, life is full of wonder. Too often we take people and things for granted, instead of being amazed, impressed, and excited about the beauty and synchronicity that exists all around us.

In addition to being in awe of my sweet little angel, here are a few examples of some other, “simple” things I’ve noticed and been in awe of in the past few weeks:

  • Electricity
  • The natural bond between human beings
  • The internet
  • Breast feeding
  • Trees
  • Laughter
  • Automobiles
  • Family and community support
  • Video
  • Breathing

Our ability to be grateful and to appreciate others, ourselves, and life in general has very little to do with the circumstances or situations we encounter…it has to do with us and our perspective.

When something “big” happens in life, like the birth of a child, a major accomplishment, an important milestone, or something else we consider to be really “good,” we often give ourselves permission, albeit sometimes for just a very short time, to stop and appreciate – ourselves, others, or certain aspects of life. This is wonderful!

However, what if we took the time to appreciate life, the people around us, and ourselves all the time? If we focused on what we appreciated more regularly, do you think it would have a positive impact on our work, our relationships, and our lives? Of course it would. The good news is that appreciation is and always will be up to us. We have a choice in the moment-by-moment, day-by-day reality of life about what we focus on and how much gratitude we experience.

Take a minute right now and think of some of the people, things, and aspects of your life that you appreciate. Paying attention to these things and allowing yourself to be in awe of them is up to you! And, when we do this…it alters our experience of life, others, and ourselves instantly.

 

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