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How A Near-Death Accident Taught Me The Art of Listening

Most of us find it easy and enjoyable to talk about ourselves.

I think that partly explains why social media is so popular. Where else can you endlessly share with the world what you are doing or thinking, where you have traveled, or what you care about with such a large and seemingly welcoming audience?

What has happened to the art of listening? It is an art. There is tremendous skill involved when one is listening. In July, 2010, I was in a near fatal boating accident. Both my lungs collapsed. For many months, I barely had enough lung capacity to keep breathing. I could not waste my breath on talking. And so, I learned to listen.

Here are 5 tips that I would like to share that I learned from my experience:

 

1. Invite the person in.

Start your conversation with a statement that tells the speaker you are interested in what they have to say.  For example, “Tell me everything that was important to you when that happened” or “I want to hear all about….” are inviting openers.

2. Take yourself out of the conversation.

Enter the conversation with the knowledge that you are not here to share about yourself, only to listen. If you are constantly thinking about giving advice or sharing your own experiences, you are not truly listening. Wait a couple of seconds before replying.

3. Be sure the speaker has finished before replying.

Often, they are regrouping and have more to add.  You’ll never know what you missed if you interrupt to give some sage advice.

4. Be mindful.

This does not mean you can’t be knitting or walking. In fact, using your hands increases your ability to focus. It does mean that you cannot be distracted by electronics or other tasks. You must be “present” and paying attention to the speaker.

5. Have good eye contact.

If you are together, good eye contact is important to show the speaker you are listening.  If you are on the phone, small comments like “I understand” or “I see” let’s the speaker know you are following the conversation.

My accident presented many personal challenges but also brought me many gifts. Listening to others, hearing their pleasures and their pain made me feel connected to whoever I was with in a way that I never had before. It was, and still is, one of the very best gifts of all that I received. Today, I am fully recovered but the art of listening is a skill that I have to continue to work on. My lungs work just fine and expressing myself can be joyful too. I think the key, as in most things in life, is finding the balance.

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