When you are having a conversation with someone, how much listening do you really do? How much of the time do you spend thinking about what to say next? Are you preoccupied doing something else as they’re talking while saying, “Go ahead. Don’t mind what I’m doing. I’m listening.”
Are you listening only to the words that the person is saying, or are you also able to listen to what they are NOT saying?
How about the FEELINGS behind those words? Are you able to detect what those feelings are and empathize with them?
When we are fully present in the conversation and genuinely interested in what the other is saying, we are practicing nonviolence.
The listener attends fully to the speaker’s words while sensing the feelings and needs beneath the words. The listener is simply fully present. They’re not trying to “figure out” what the speaker is needing, nor trying to “get it right.” If I can listen to you with compassion, it is usually only a short time before you listen with compassion to me.
Communication is often equated with speaking. Yet the other equally important, but often ignored part of the communication process is listening. And we can all do a better job at listening. And listening is so much more than just allowing the other person to speak.
Active or reflective listening is a technique that can improve our communication skills. The listener paraphrases the words of the person speaking. This lets the speaker know that the listener has accurately received what the speaker is meaning to say.
Active or reflective listening also requires the listener to hear not only what the speaker is saying but the feelings behind those words. The listener then paraphrases not only what the speaker has said but also the feelings of the speaker that have been left unsaid.
When the listener is able to reflect back to the speaker the words and thoughts of the speaker, the speaker feels validated. And who doesn’t want to feel validated? To be validated gives the feeling of being appreciated and valued, and that the listener truly cares and genuinely understands the speaker’s views.
When the speaker feels honored and appreciated, they become more open and receptive to hearing the point of view of the listener. Both parties will better understand each other’s point of view. Both will be more accommodating of what the other is conveying and insist less on proving that their own point of view is the right one. The interaction moves away from I-win-you-lose to win-win.
“Courtesy towards opponents and eagerness to understand their viewpoint is the ABC of nonviolence.” –M.K. Gandhi
Today: I will be fully present to each conversation I engage in, and listen longer than usual – and with more patience – to what others are saying. I will give the other person my full attention because nothing else really matters. I will look directly at the person who is speaking, without thinking about other things.
64 Ways in 64 Days Nonviolence Daily Reflections Day 28 – Feb. 26, 2012
Rosenberg, M. (2003). Nonviolent communication: A language of life
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