October 2, 2014

The Importance of Listening for Love, Limits, and Learning

By Margaret Rappaport

Listening is one of the greatest gifts we give to ourselves and to each other. Skillful listening involves attention, gestures and a willingness to engage and focus. All of the questionnaires and “tests” I’ve shared in this blog require listening for understanding and sharing. Listening is the basis for love; listening is the way we experience boundaries or limits; listening is how we learn about others and how we grow ourselves.

There is a distinction between “hearing” and “listening” that is deeply embedded in our English language. “Listen” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word “hlystan” which means “hearing” and the word “hlosnian” which means to “wait in suspense”. When we listen, hearing what is said is combined with an intense psychological involvement between us and others.

Listening involves hearing several things in any interaction:

  • What is described? (Facts, events, situations, information conveyed)
  • How does another person feel? How do you feel?
  • Where is the energy? Where is the emphasis?
  • What are the bodies saying? Both the speaker’s body and the hearer’s body have actions and reactions that are important for listening.

Effective listening develops from a desire to acquire a skill that brings out the best in yourself and at the same time respects the dignity of other people. Common sense tells us that listening well improves our relationships. Steady practice in listening better is a habit that enhances meaningfulness among us. Listening leads to happiness.

Dr. Margaret Rappaport