For when you come to think of it, the only way to love a person is not ... to coddle them and bring them soup when they're sick, but by listening to them and seeing and believing in the god, in the poet in them. ~ Brenda Ueland
The first element of communication, speaking, is impossible without the second, listening; to be a good speaker you must be a good listener. We all want to speak; and even more, we want to be heard. When we become good listeners we create the possibility of a captive audience - people who want to hear what we have to say. In his essay, "The Statesman," playwright Henry Taylor poetically expresses this idea: "No siren did ever so charm the ear of the listener as the listening ear has charmed the soul of the siren."
Listening, however, is a big challenge; even when we try hard our unconscious mind still thinks, "Soon it will be my turn." We swim in an emotional hotbed of thought and experience, and it's difficult to quiet its demands long enough to hear and understand what someone really means. Add to that the fact that the other person may not be clear about his own message!
Become a listening artist. The art of communication is about creating and strengthening relationships. An adept listener strives first to understand others and second to create a feeling within others of being understood. Your best goal is not to find a solution to whatever problem you may have with someone; the ideal goal is the tapestry of connection which is a result of putting aside for a moment your own frame of reference. A solution is much easier to find once you're on the same page. To become competent at listening, learn to remain in the listener role until you have a "meeting of minds." Respond and speak, but remain in the listener role. This means you don't get to express your point of view! What you have to say may be important, but don't do it until you've created a bond, a sense of oneness.
We sometimes struggle acknowledging someone's point of view out of fear of losing our identity or fear that we may somehow become compromised. Recognition of someone's ideas doesn't require agreement; its intention is a dance of understanding. Acknowledging someone with sincerity puts him at ease, helps him feel less vulnerable, more open. We often become defensive, feeling that someone is attacking us. Approach communication with the notion that another's beliefs are merely that; they are her personal ideas, and as such don't have anything to do with you or anyone else. In "The Four Agreements," author Don Miguel Ruiz says, "Others are going to have their own opinion according to their belief system, so nothing they think about me is really about me, but it is about them." His "Second Agreement" is concise and powerful, "Don't take it personally."
Create listening music. Be curious; ask questions to better grasp the other person's meaning. Don't defend, justify, or criticize. Do not explain how your perspective is correct or why your actions were valid. Do not ask questions meant to invalidate another's thinking or to validate your own ideas. Be authentic, not "sweet." True listening is not a passive enterprise but an active extension of yourself into the heart of another, which in turn invites and draws him out into a song of rapport. Listen; you would be wise!