Grow Bigger Ears: Heart Listening

As a writer, it’s almost impossible for me to read a book, have a conversation or experience ANYTHING without writing something down.

What can I say? A writer writes. Always.

Ironically, while the ability to capture and catalog ideas and experiences has become my greatest asset as a writer, it’s also become my greatest weakness as a listener.

Especially in conversation. For example, when someone makes a profound comment, asks a killer question or juxtaposes words in a beautifully unexpected way, I become SO excited, SO energized and SO intent on capturing and processing that little nugget of truth … that I sometimes stop listening.

This reaction causes two problems:

1. You miss out on whatever is said next. Like when you’re at the movies with one of those annoying people who keeps asking you questions like, “Who’s that guy?” and “Why did she sleep with her sister’s fiancé?” and after explaining everything to them, you end up missing the next scene.
2. You neglect the opportunity to let the original idea TRULY resonate down to your core.

LESSON LEARNED: Listen with your heart, not your head.

See, everyone’s got their poison. Some vice or magnet that distracts their listening practice by internally competing for the attention of their ears.

For me, it’s my pen.

What about you?

What distracts you from (fully) giving yourself to the other person?

My friend and occasional therapist, Richard Avdoian, suggest the following:

“Allow things to profoundly penetrate you. Even if you don’t understand them right away. Be patient and mindful enough to let them enter through your head and slowly drift down to your heart.”

To gain a better understanding of Heart Listening, I’ve laid out four daily practices that you can start applying TODAY to grow bigger ears.

1. Let the pearl sink. When you’re given a piece of advice, or when someone utters an unexpected, profound gem, STOP. Pause for a moment to repeat the idea – out loud and/or in your head. Reflect on it. Freeze it in your mind. Register the moment. Take a Mental Polaroid of it and then clothespin it onto your psyche for further evaluation. Take a few breaths. Allow this new pearl to slowly sink from your head down to your heart.

LISTEN UP: Are you understanding things too quickly?

2. Capture and return. The challenge is to find a balance between capturing and listening. My suggestion is to “capture and return.” When your conversation partner makes an important point, or if a profound thought suddenly enters into your brain, quickly jot down the premise of the idea and return to the discussion. NO PROCESSING. NO EXPANDING. Capture and return. Honor the conversation.

LISTEN UP: Do have enough self-control to press the hold button on your next amazing idea for the purpose of being an attentive listener?

3. Multiple readings. Reading is also a form of listening. And some books require a higher level of thinking, and therefore are worth reading a few times. My suggestion is to first read the book with no pen. No processing. No note taking. Gently allow the author’s words wash over you. Then, come back to the book a second time. This assures that the key ideas from the reading become part of your daily practices and, therefore, truly resonate down to your core.

LISTEN UP: Are you listening to what the page is telling you?

4. Stop taking so many pictures. During my annual trip to Sedona this summer, I forgot my camera. Amazingly, however, my trip wasn’t any less memorable without my camera. In fact, this year it was even MORE unforgettable than ever. Because instead of taking pictures of every gorgeous canyon I passed, I would simply stop for a moment, take a few deep breaths, and allow my surroundings to imprint themselves on my soul. THAT was the only exposure that mattered.

LISTEN UP: Are you creating REAL memories or just taking a bunch of pictures?

I encourage you to begin practicing each of these four examples of growing bigger ears. In so doing you will honor the speaker, stay focused on the present moment and reduce the likelihood of missing out on important ideas.

Ooh! That was a good line. Better write that one down…

Are you listening with your head or your heart?

For the list called, “27 Reasons People Aren’t Listening to You,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

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