The ability to listen well is a vital trait that anyone from any sphere of life must have. It is easy to dispense advice, and everyone likes doing that. However, in many circumstances, more beneficial than advising someone is listening with all your heart to what he or she has to say. Not everyone will be able to help others financially. But when someone is trying to unburden his or her heart, we can try to listen with an open heart. Doing so is a great service.
Where there is love, there will be proper listening, too. Listening is of utmost importance in both family and professional life. There is no better way to avoid mutual misunderstanding and complications in life. One of the biggest drawbacks today in the relationship between spouses is the inability to patiently hear each other out.
There are three types of ‘listening’: listening with the intellect, with the mind, and with the heart. It is impossible to listen intellectually. One might even say that there is no listening involved when one ‘listens’ with the intellect only.
A philosopher went to see a mahatma. As soon as he arrived, the philosopher started speaking non-stop. After talking uninterruptedly for a very long time, the philosopher told the mahatma, “Please give me some advice.”
The mahatma said, “I’ll bring some tea first. The advice can come after that.” He came back shortly with some tea. He placed a cup before the philosopher and started pouring tea from the teapot. Soon, the cup was full and began to overflow. But the mahatma did not stop pouring. The philosopher exclaimed, “The cup is full. It cannot contain even one more drop of tea!”
The mahatma chuckled and said, “So, you know very well that once the cup is full, it cannot take in even one more drop, don’t you? In the same way, your mind and intellect are crammed with many thoughts and information. There is not even an iota of space left for advice. First, create a tiny space for it.” Listening with the mind is partial listening. Our preconceived ideas will be an obstacle to assimilating fully what we hear. But when we listen with the heart, it is the power of love that is most actively operating. Here, one gives full attention to the other person. Such listening helps the speaker and the listener, and brings about a change in both.
There are four ways of communicating properly: reading, writing, speaking and listening. We receive training in the first three from childhood itself. To a large extent, we are well-versed in reading what is necessary, speaking when the need arises, and writing. However, we have not acquired sufficient skills in listening properly. That is why most people are bad listeners.
God has given us two ears and one mouth. So, we should listen twice as much to others as we speak to them. But at present, we are doing the very opposite. We talk non-stop, and do not try to listen to anyone. When someone else is speaking, instead of paying attention, we are thinking about what we are going to say next.
When we listen with the intellect alone, the differentiating attitude—‘you’ and ‘I’—will always be there. Knowingly or unknowingly, when we talk, we strive to express the feeling, “I’m great; you’re inferior.” Problems cease and life becomes pleasant when we understand the heart of another person, and not when we air our own greatness.
It is said, “It’s not enough to have eyes; one should see.” In a similar vein, it is not enough to have ears; one should listen properly. Being a good listener is a great asset in life. The ability to listen with love and patience will help make the person speaking to us happy, show us how to behave in any given situation, and help us see the right solutions to problems.
The writer is a world-renowned spiritual leader