On Listening - Being Present

By Chris Chittenden

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

… Ernest Hemingway (1889-1961) US journalist, novelist and short-story writer

Last month, I touched on the idea of whether you feel that people listen to you or not. I have no doubt that this is a subject that is very relevent for many of you as feeling listened to by others shows up as a fundamental aspect of our sense of self and is directly related to our core concerns such as status, autonomy and relatedness.

When two people both feel listened to by the other then there is every chance of developing a good relationship. However, listening to others is not something which most of us are specifically taught. Rather it is something that we just pick up as we go through life.

We see this reflected in our work training coaches. One of the exercises we ask people to do in our coach training program seems simple on the surface. We ask them to simply sit and be still for five minutes each day. We invite them to just experience being themselves. To be present with themselves. For those people who do not practice meditation, this is often a major challenge. So much so that this is often one of the more difficult practices that our students undertake.

Why is this?

One of the key aspects of listening to being able to stop the chatter in our own heads and attend to the other person and be present for them. It seems that the fast pace of life that many people experience makes it difficult to stop and listen to someone else. We are so busy thinking about what we want to say or do next that we do not give others the space for us to listen to them.

So, here is another invitation as you start the new year. Take five minutes each day and just sit and be present with yourself. There are no rules to this other than taking the time. Just see what shows up. Most people who begin and maintain this practice find themselves far more present with themselves and then by extension with others. This can be a great first step to becoming a better listener.

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© 2013 Chris Chittenden