The multiple benefits of learning the "Art of Listening"
Updated: Oct 4, 2021
What it took to transform my personal experience through improving my listening skills .
I dont know about you, but for me the “Corona coma” period which is the entire year of 2020 pretty much- has brought a lot of soul searching. Not just regarding the lessons learned on a global scale but even more so- the personal ones.
A number of rejections by very close individuals in my life was shaking to my foundation on a level I began questioning everything I do.
Starting with an ex who seemed to drift away from “seeing eye to eye” with me, to a very close friend who seemed to lose interest in co-creating our beautiful dreams together. And finally it happened again on a professional level with a particular music industry individual which temporarily left me traumatized feeling unheard and misunderstood.
During these experiences I found myself going through a slight depression. At first I wondered if I was just meant to go through it and accept it. But than eventually I noticed that it increased the level of my self doubts leading me to question everything I do wondering if I handled any of these situations rightly.
As I continued with my meditation and my soul searching practices- I magically stumbled across an interview by Judith Katz, an Israeli podcaster who loves interviewing the kind of minds that care to focus on Positive Psychology.
In her podcast “Think better” she interviews Prof. Avi Kloger from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Listening to that interview followed by the magical film “The Yogis of Tibet” I realized that my deep need to be heard (which at times seems to me as important as oxygen itself) can only be met if I actually learn to improve my listening skills first.
I was aware of that, as I’ve been studying the enlightened Buddha's teachings for the past 20 years. There I learned that one’s best efforts to gain respect and success with others must be done through the mastery of listening. And yet I seem to still have the pulse to react and defend my needs so strongly sometimes, and therefor become hurt and burnt out by the undesirable consequences of my own actions.
What I’m about to share with you here has been helping me realize that to avoid self destructive relationships one needs to practice patience and develop deep understanding of what is called “The art of listening”.
Judith Katz interview with Prof Kloger gave me a new perspective of understanding. They discussed the analyses of thousands of researches on “The art of listening”. What was revealed in the interview was quite outstanding:
1. People who are being listened to better tend to perform better. In Israel, it is shown through statistical research that excellent sales people are very successful because they tend to take their time listening to others in order to identify what they need. Eventually they learn how to "sow the perfect garment" for their client providing the perfect product, making their clients happier as a result (a good incentive for many sales experts).
Doctors, who have better listening skills end up getting less malpractice lawsuits.
A skillful interviewer can help others be more fluent in speech and indirectly help them represent their true abilities best.
In schools with headmasters possessing better listening skills (as many teachers reveal) students flourish more and tend to have higher academic achievements. This is a very positive effect that has shown in local standard tests. Overall, in many fields of performance, there seems to be a direct alignment between better listening to better performance quality. This has statistically shown in many fields of performance in Israel.
2. Israeli law students with particularly limited listening skills were asked to pair up and speak to one another about something significant while the other had to practice listening without reacting. Apparently, the experiment didn’t go very well leaving everyone feeling frustrated for not being able to react when used to and for not being used to talk for so long. Ms. Katz, who held the experiment said she began questioning the method and wondered if there was a better way to get better results. Prof. Kloger explained that an important aspect to achieving improvement in the quality of listening can be done by encouraging the participants to speak about original fun topics they truly enjoy talking about which lead him to conclude that an authentic story will literally attract better listening in almost any situation.
3. Better listening skills help create recession amongst extreme political opinions. A study Prof. Kloger conducted in 2020 shows that no matter what one’s opinion is, as long as he or she is being listened to- their opinion can be moderated as a result. The ability to feel listened to is what makes one feel safe and heard. Similarly, the "motivational approach shows that while listening to others with difficulties to change- once they are told that they are somewhat wrong for feeling that way most likely it ends up strengthening their resistance to change, whereas the approach of supporting their struggles by showing empathy to what they are going through- often helps them change.
4. There is a beautiful balance between listening to others for the sake of trying to help them or just listening to them in order to give them space/ platform to speak. It is important to ask others if they are interested in receiving any feedback or advice. If we haven’t been asked to give any advice its usually better to not give it.
Often times all that is really needed in situations like this is to give them a platform to listen to themselves talk. As expressive beings we need the others to listen to us in order to give us an observing point of view. The other can ultimately help us create a better clarity within ourselves. Just being listened to can create clarity within ourselves as we can see ourselves better through them and better understand how we think.
5. Better listening reduces depression no less than cognitive behavioral therapy or psychiatric therapy. After the 2004 Tsunami in India some volunteers were sent to talk and mostly listen to the people in one of the suffering villages while the village next door remained unattended. Researches examined the level of depression in both villages and found that the village with the present listening volunteers showed a significant reduction in depression while the other didn’t.
In the UK nurses are often sent to listen to parents after experiencing premature birth, a scenario which often tends to lead to depression. These nurses aren trained psychologists but their ability to listen shows to have positive effects on the minds of these new parents.
6. If better quality listening was taught in schools it could help create a mentally healthier society. Stephen Covey, author of “7 habits of highly effective people says- "seek to understand before you seek to be understood", that's a principal that encourages success in life. There is a place to give advice when the person is asking for it, but if he/ she isn’t asking for it and yet your’e sure you need to say something that you believe can help them- make sure to practice the art of gentleness where you can ask things instead of saying them. For example: if you did such and such- what do you think could happen as a result? it's always better to propose things as a question.
In conclusion I'd like to offer a personal note.
If you’re like me, an individual with strong needs to be heard and understood- perhaps you find yourself benefiting from Prof Kloger’s research, by learning that no matter how important it is to express how we feel- if the others have a hard time hearing or accepting us it could be because we haven’t fully and properly listened to them first. But they will most likely not feel threatened if we tried and allowed them to hear themselves or ask them the kind of questions that can make them feel better about their choices. I believe that ultimately, as strange as it may sound, putting oneself aside for the sake of the bigger picture can only benefit the person doing that, in the end.