Often, when someone says, ‘Listen’, we think, ‘Oh! I want to hear this’. But when someone speaks, do we really listen to them? I ask myself this question frequently: Am I really listening to them? Parents say, ‘Listen to me!’; Teachers ask, ‘Are you listening to me?’; And friends say: ‘listen to me first!’
But is listening the same as hearing? I personally don’t think so.
There is certainly a difference between hearing and listening. A big difference in fact. Jiddu Krishnamurti once said “When you are listening to somebody completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it.”
And science says that when the ears receive sound waves, they are converted into impulses and thereafter decoded by our brain. And how we recognise, understand and make sense of the sounds, is based on our past experience with sound, our memories and of course, our conditioning. So that would summarise ‘hearing’ in a nutshell.
However, listening on other hand is a mindful act and even an act of love. We are all constantly facing issues in our lives, many of which are due to lapses in attention whilst listening or maybe not even listening at all. I read somewhere that the biggest communication problem is that we do not listen to understand but to reply. And in fact, Swamiji also said this Himself many times. Of course, many of us with our old tendencies want to advise or reply back immediately, before even taking the time to listen. I am also guilty of doing so, and still do sometimes due to a lack of mindfulness. We want to correct and change others, get them to listen to us without realising the depth of the subject. And unfortunately, we speak and advise without listening completely.
There are people around us, whether they are friends, family members, random strangers at a tea stall or even passer-by’s, who have the need to be heard, i.e. someone to truly listen to them with empathy. They just want the luxury to spill their hearts out without being judged. They would love to open up but not for others to merely hear sounds or advise them, but for others to truly listen from the heart.
I was once involved in ‘7cup’,(Online platform where one can help to those who are in depression and suffering from anxiety) acting as a volunteer listener. And that’s what was required of me; to listen to other people who are in pain. No doubt, it was a very hard task as, like many people, I can barely stop talking. I am always keen to correct others and advise. Sometimes I am even quick to point out faults in others. To help me overcome my tendency to constantly talk, thankfully by God’s grace, I managed to complete my 10-day retreat of Vipassana. In case you are wondering, it’s a Buddhist meditation retreat where you have to remain silent for a total of 10 days. No talking is allowed and even sign language is forbidden. (I will share the details about my 10-day journey in the future). But that retreat helped me become an active listener.
Stave Maraboli said: “Sometimes we need someone to just listen. Not to try and fix anything or offer alternative but to just be there to listen. An ear that listens can be medicine for a heart that hurts.”
If you’re wondering about the qualities required to be a good listener, I realised that there are a few and yes, we probably heard about them all:
3. Being non-judgmental
Our beloved Swamiji already explained about all of them in great detail in many videos and posts as well as explaining beautifully about many of our other Vikaras (tendencies).
So I will save your precious time by not sharing my views about them here.
But with all that said, we may question the following: Do we simply have to listen, remain quiet and say nothing? No. I believe that we can give them suggestions rather than advice. There is a big difference between both of them. Advice tends to restrict the other person. It stops them from exploring opportunities and most of the time advice also gives the listener an ego boost. However, suggestions (if asked for) open up a wider scope for the person in need. One by one, suggestions can help them conclude what’s the best option for them by using their own judgement. And from that perspective, we show kindness to others who are in pain by also valuing their ability to make their own decisions. The same goes for helping anyone who may be suffering from depression.
Just listen and be a listener.
I am not writer and other than answers to my numerous exam papers, I haven’t written anything in my life. With Swamiji’s grace and Mother Divine’s love, I took a leap and came out of my comfort zone to share a few words with you all. It’s all out of love.
Special thanks to Swami’s Little Minion for Wonderful Editing and making it possible.
All glories to our beloved Swamiji 😘