It seems like the world is becoming more and more divisive. Since the dawn of the internet and social media, the way we treat each other has shifted a lot. Social media creates an environment in which people are more likely to share their opinions, both positive and negative. The universe now has a million eyes: everything we do is recorded, and every injustice gets posted. It is almost as if all of the anger that has been brewing underground over the years is rising up to the surface and starting to flow everywhere. Trying to stop the flow feels like trying to use your hand to stop a tsunami: like an ineffective, massive waste of time. People are more entrenched in their positions, angrier and louder than they have ever been, and sometimes it appears that the divide has become too difficult to cross. Yet, in the middle of all of this, deep down, most people want to find a solution. But how does it start? It starts once we really listen to each other.
As a Life Coach, I have been trained to actively listen to other people. I listen to not only what they say, but how they say it. I notice what they do not say. I like to think that I can understand them, but we are all human. Life moves quickly and offers many distractions. How often do we make assumptions about what another person means? How often do we find ourselves considering our own responses before they finish talking? How often do we interrupt in order to get our own point across, not allowing the other person to finish? Listening is a skill that we must develop. The beauty about becoming a better listener is that it improves your life in countless ways. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but that really isn’t true. It doesn’t matter if you are 8 or 80, you can improve your ability to connect with others by becoming a better listener. Any shift in energy creates a ripple effect in the world. Every positive improvement you make, no matter how small, has a positive impact on the world.
An important theme in my life and work is meditation. I can use meditation in almost every topic I teach because it raises your vibration. Meditation is so simple, yet it is often the most resisted of the tools I suggest. I am often told it feels like I am asking my clients to “do nothing.” Meditation doesn’t “do nothing;” it creates balance. Our minds get filled with so much information as we move through our day, and meditation allows us to quiet the clutter. It allows us to let go of our own wants and needs and just “be.” Prayer is telling the universe what you want, and meditation is listening to what the universe has to say about it. When we meditate, we create space to hear. We let go of our labels, our goals, and our expectations to make room for our higher truth. Meditation is the basis for becoming a great listener.
Another thing that we can do to become better at listening is practice “mindfulness.” Mindfulness could be considered another form of meditation, but it is really about being fully present and engaged in what you are doing. Being mindful means that you’re not trying to “get” anywhere; it’s about living in the moment. A saying that sums up this idea is, “wash dishes to wash dishes.” How often do you wash dishes just to get it done? The next time you wash a dish, bring your entire awareness to that dish. Practice being in the moment: notice the weight of the dish, the feel of the sponge on the plate, the sound of the running water. Instead of planning your evening or mulling over the events of yesterday, find satisfaction in the action of washing the dish. As you increased your mindfulness, it is easier to be fully present in your life. When you allow yourself to be “mindful” of other people, you open yourself up to what they are saying.
While those two processes are the groundwork for becoming a great listener, the most important thing that you can do when listening is to decide to be “teachable.” The book, A Course in Miracles, says that we are all teachers, and we are all students. I know that I, personally, discover new things about myself every day, and so for me to assume that I know all there is to know about someone else is ridiculous. I once heard a wonderful talk by Leo Buscaglia, a great teacher at USC, who said that we don’t have to travel to a foreign country to go to a new world; all we have to do is talk to someone and listen to their story. Each story has so much to teach us, and we have so much to learn. When we assume that we know everything about another person, or any subject for that matter, we are no longer teachable. By remaining humble, we open ourselves up to expansion. We often dismiss others’ opinions or stances on topics when we do not agree with them. However, when we humble ourselves and become teachable, we can learn how they came to their conclusions. We can see the world through their eyes, thus expanding our own perception. We still might not agree with them, but at least we will be able to connect with them. When you connect with another person, you gain a greater understanding and compassion towards them. Energetically speaking, our connection is the thing that will bring us together.
Learning better listening skills is essential in bridging the divide between individuals and groups. The better we can hear what others have to say and understand it, the better chance we have of finding a way to connect with each other.
The HOW TO with Kim Mazzella is a weekly column featuring Kim's expert life coaching tips for the modern woman navigating entrepreneurship, motherhood, work-life balance, and more!
ABOUT KIM MAZZELLA:
Kim Mazzella, founder of the Life Guidance Center, is a Healer, Teacher, Spiritual Coach and Writer. Her work is based in the belief that our natural state is health and wholeness. Her job is to help those she works with remove the blocks that they have placed in the way of the free flow of energy and healing. She integrates the knowledge from her study of A Course in Miracles and universal laws with her study of massage and understanding of the body’s energy system to create a holistic approach to healing and change.