The Art of Really Listening


In reflecting on the oddity that was 2020, I realised that some of the best moments of compassion, connection, and understanding, came from when I was silent. When I paused, tuned in and really listened.

As a person with a LOT of words in my head, that regularly pour out of my mouth (and, as you can see, my fingertips also), stopping this outpouring comes as a SERIOUS challenge.

So I’ve decided that one part of my theme for 2021, is ‘curiosity and listening’. I really want to become a much improved listener. I want to employ ‘being quiet’ more. So far, the being quiet part is still a major wip…

I’ve just really enjoyed reading Fearne Cotton’s beautifully written, raw and real book ‘Speak Your Truth’.

Not only is that front cover my front cover of dreams (a column of glittery pink was something which came to me in a visualisation a couple of years back – so it pretty much had me at ‘hello’), but Fearne speaks so honestly and vulnerably about so many things that resonate with me as a woman, a mother and, also, a stepmother (an arena of great growth for me in the art of speaking my truth, and one which I continue to learn from, often ! Fearne highlights and explores this little talked of topic sensitively and revealingly).

This paragraph really resonated for me, when thinking about the art of listening:

‘It is so easy to make someone else’s story a portal for your own pain and history. I’m sure we’ve all done it in the past. Thinking we’re being helpful, we’ve found an opportunity to be nostalgic for a few moments, waxing lyrical about our own pain and suffering, thinking it might lighten the other person’s load.
I’m susceptible to this one as I often get nervous in these comfortable moments and want to fill the gaps. When I know someone is being very real with me and they feel comfortable enough to show me their heart and pain I so desperately don’t want to get my bit wrong. I want to be supportive and hep them if I can. I have previously filled silent pauses with agreement and personal stories when, really, we both just needed silence…in those pockets of silence often lies the truth.’

Speak Your Truth

As Fearne is essentially saying:

there is power in the pause.

Put differently, we simply cannot listen when we are too busy speaking!

But how to really improve at listening?

I brought this up this week with my coach, and together we came up with the following:

  • start with asking the person if there is something specific they would like help with, or would they prefer me simply to listen
  • ascertain what the outcome for the conversation is and why it is important
  • what is my evidence procedure for getting better at listening?
  • take notes
  • ask questions at the end
  • repeat back ‘if I am hearing correctly…(summary)’ ‘I am hearing…’ ‘I understood xyz’

So, now you know, you can test me next time we’re talking…! Even in my several conversations today, I caught myself babbling on far more than I would like, but the awareness is a starting point. I can only get better from here…

With love and listening ears,

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