Deep Listening

Understanding deep listening

What is deep listening?

Deep listening is a practice that is used for anything from spiritual growth to building better communication pathways within a business or other organisation. Essentially, it is about developing the skills required to pay attention to what is being said without bringing too many of your own thoughts and prejudices into the equation. This means the ability to listen and to go beyond simply hearing the words that are being uttered. Instead, it requires the listener to empathise and relate to what is being said without jumping in with counter-arguments or other proposals. According to advocates of deep listening, the average person will be able to listen but not well enough to do so in a way that does not discriminate their needs from that of the person they are listening to. Deeper listening is often thought to be beneficial because, quite simply, it allows for a deeper understanding of the world.

What is deep listening?

As mentioned, poor listeners will often impose their own thoughts and feelings when they are listening to others. An essential skill, therefore, is to remain silent and allow more to be said before interrupting or trying to drive the words of others in a particular direction. Another skill is the ability to read between the lines, as it were, of what is being said – something that necessarily means listening to what is not being said, too. The ability to reflect on what has been said is another key skill with deep listening. Sometimes, a wide-ranging series of thoughts can be brought together only when you have had the opportunity to mull them over for a while and draw together various strands to come up with the most cogent ideas.

How do you practice deep listening?

If you want to be better at deep listening, then you need to make the conditions right for the person you are listening to. Firstly, this means ensuring they feel as comfortable as possible and that they can speak in confidence. It also means ensuring that whoever you are listening to is not rushed and can take their time. Not being judgemental is another important thing to bear in mind. Of course, interrupting is not helpful, but prompting with questions to encourage more talking can be useful. Ensure your questions are open and not closed so that you are not directing the conversation unduly, however.

What are the benefits of deep listening?

Deeper listening allows people to really learn what is being communicated and gain a better understanding. It builds trust and can, in many cases, help people to get things off their chest, which have caused distress. It can also help to build consensus and accord rather than division.

Which levels does deep listening operate on?

Deep listening can help individuals to listen to their own inner voice, a so-called intra-personal form of deep listening that helps spiritual growth. An interpersonal approach can be used by professional therapists and counsellors – as well as friends – to understand the needs of others better. It is often also used in group situations, too, such as group therapy sessions.

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