The Gift of Listening by Cinda Stevens Lonsway

NTC_talk_slideThe Gift of Listening
by Cinda Stevens Lonsway ©2013


The most important gift you can EVER give another is the gift of listening.


It seems simple enough, but if you really pay attention to your attention, you would notice how little attention you actually pay to what another is saying.  The longer the story, the less attention you pay.  The duller and the more monotonous the voice, the less attention you pay.  There are so many excuses you can give as to why you don’t listen, but the thing you need to know is that as common as it may be, it is rude and ego driven.


When you lose interest in someone’s story, you allow your mind to wander, or worse, you start thinking about what you are going to say next.  When you do that, you are NOT giving the gift of listening.  You are not living in the moment.  You are not being present.


The biggest present you can give another is to be present with her (or him)… her words, her emotions.  You show that you are not only listening, but that you hear her.  Eckhart Tolle, author of “A New Earth,” tells us (and I paraphrase) that when you are present with another, you are helping that person awaken to her spirit.  How does that work?  You are honoring the essence of who she is.  You learn to be present by being aware of the person right in front of you; the person who is talking.


The Native Americans have a tradition called the Talking Stick.  No one can talk or contribute vocally to the circle unless they have the stick.  Those in the circle are asked to stay present, be quiet, and hold space for the one who is talking.  It is also a judgment-free zone.  How do you listen without judgment?  You set your ego aside and listen.


Our culture loves to talk over, around, through, and on top of anyone who is talking.  Our ego wants the limelight, wants the stage, wants to talk.  You assume that what you have to say is entertaining, educational, and all-inspiring.  Sometimes it is; sometimes it isn’t, but if no one is listening, who really knows for sure?


We have a horrible habit of filling a void of silence with our chatter.  The rarest gift you can give another is the gift of silence.  Silence is one of the most sacred of all moments in communication.  When you allow a space for silence, you offer a space for communion of your spirits.


There are people that still test my patience.  They may be older, or lonelier, or perhaps much younger than where I am in my life.  But through the years, I have learned that beneath their stories is a need… a need to be heard, a need to be valued, a need to be needed.  When I have a conversation with them, the gift of listening becomes even more important.  It is a HUGE and precious gift you can offer them.  The gift of listening is a validation of who they are and of how much they matter.


I have learned a valuable practice to listening when it is most difficult.  There are the obvious good manners my parents taught me, of looking her (or him) in the eyes, nodding my head to show I understand what she is saying, and repeating back what I have heard to ensure I have heard it correctly.


Those moments, though, when I do find my mind wandering, or when my ego wants to interrupt, or when I just lose track of the conversation, I found a way to bring myself back. I have mastered a way to bring myself back  to the focal point of the other person’s voice.  I am immediately re-centered and in the present moment. I am listening.


I silently recite a mantra to myself, “My gift to you is that I am listening,” and I am reminded to listen.  If I catch my mind wandering again, or the story keeps going and growing, I again say to myself, “My gift to you is that I am listening…” and yet again, if needed, I silently recite it, “my gift to you is that I am STILL listening.”


It may seem that I am not listening when I think this mantra, but that isn’t the case.  The mantra is repeated in an upper part of my mind, not consuming my thoughts. It acts almost like a feeling, with a memory of listening. It works! It reminds me to be present, and it allows me to respect the person talking.


Try it, you’ll see what I mean. It is a true gift, one of the most priceless gifts that you can give another.  When you listen, you are showing the other person that she (he) matters to you.  If she feels she matters, then she will walk a little taller, and feel a bit more important.  When you give the gift of listening, you give the gift of self esteem, the gift of self worth, and the gift of self confidence.


Being present and in the moment with every person you talk and listen to allows the space for two people to connect at a deeper level.  When you listen, truly hear the voice of another, you give the gift of your Self, of your spirit, to the other.  You hold sacred space for the one talking; even without a Talking Stick you honor the one in front of you.


My gift to you is that I am listening, so let’s talk.