TL;DR – see summary below.
I shall not go into the benefits of listening well, there are many, and much of it is agreed upon.
Listening is an innate ability. Forcing it does not improve one’s skills at it.
Listening is a state of being. Good listening comes from quieting of one’s mind, and compassion for the person being listened too.
Take this example: Someone very close to you is on their deathbed, and is trying to say something to you. I bet you’re listening very well in that circumstance. The point is that you already have the ability, and if you want to use it, it comes naturally, and it comes in its best and only true form.
How to Improve Our Listening Ability
So, what if we want to make ourselves better listeners?
The trick is to set up ourselves so that this innate ability comes to the fore. To do that we need to understand the elements that lead to good listening.
The thing that leads to good listening is a quieting of ones own mind. This happens through one’s own actions. The actions should be good, in that they bring you peace. E.g. doing chores; getting your own life in order; sorting out your business. All these will lead to you becoming a better listener. On the flip side, imagine you have just been diagnosed with cancer, and were otherwise healthy and very young. You are not at peace now. There is a good chance that, for a while, you cannot listen to anything. Why? Because your mind is fully occupied with your own problems.
What About Active Listening and Other Advice?
I hate to break it to you but that much of the advice given about listening is fundamentally flawed. Some examples of advice you might hear are: Repeat what you have heard; Make suggestions; Ask good questions.
The problem with this advice is there is absolutely no rule that works 100% of the time and attempting to improve these abilities does precisely the wrong thing – it moves focus from your listening to you trying to listen. DO NOT FOLLOW THIS COMMON AND POOR ADVICE, JUST LISTEN.
The advice often may work in the sense that you may appear to be a good listener, but it produces only the illusion that one is a good listener, and that illusion is a poor, particularly when the person observing you is a great listener.
Listening to People is a Special Case of Observing Anything
The advice above can be applied to listening, seeing, feeling, smelling and/or tasting anything.
TL;DR / Summary
- Listening is innate
- Listening is not an active skill. Practicing it as such diminishes your ability to truly listen.
- Listening is improved through improving your own peace of mind
- One’s peace of mind is improved by doing good things. E.g. completing chores, being nice to people, doing things that reduce your regrets / guilt, etc.
- DO NOT follow much of the incorrect advice given around active listening and traits of a good listener.
- Listening is a special case of all using any sense, and the above advice applies similarly