Listen carefully because I need to tell you something really important…We don’t listen. Yes! It is so true. None of us (or very few) truly listen to each other or to our bodies. We often don’t even listen to the small voice inside–you know the one you may call intuition or your gut that is your innermost guide to what works for you.
We don’t listen to our spouses, our children, our families or our friends. We don’t listen to clients. We don’t listen.
As a part of my course in Nutrition at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, listening is taught as a very important concept for both personal wellness and coaching others. Makes sense, doesn’t it? So why don’t we do it?
Well we all have our reasons. Usually it’s because we are thinking of ourselves or thinking about what we are going to say next. Often it’s because we think we are smarter or know better than the person that’s talking. Sometimes it’s because our minds are wandering or fretting over all the things on our to do list. It may be because we are distracted with social media (put your phone down please!) or television or our kids or our dogs. I mean seriously could we have any more distractions in our lives?
So I am going to be brutally honest here—isn’t listening the only way we really learn and help others? As I really started to think about the reason that I personally don’t listen the way I should to my family or my clients I learned that for me it’s a matter of time. I’m always in a hurry. I never feel like I have the “luxury” of listening. And I think that is really sad. It goes back to my post last week on “having my plate too full”. I realized I feel this constant pressure to get things done and so every meeting, every encounter whether with friends or family or my business associates or vendors I am in a race against the clock to blurt out all the important things that I feel must be said before that imaginary buzzer in my head sounds and tells me it’s time to move on to the next thing. And I wonder why I always feel so stressed!! Living in this self-imposed fight or flight mode has the cortisol pumping 24-7 in my body and the repercussions on my health and relationships is detrimental.
Then I started thinking about the JOY that comes with listening. And I am depriving myself of that connection with others when I am harried and on a deadline for every conversation. It is most evident when I think about my pre-teen daughter. I want more than anything else to stay connected with her as she grows like my mom has connected with me. And I’ve now had the light-bulb moment about listening and I realize this means clearing my plate so that I have time to listen to her. Real time. Eye contact. Being fully present.
And that is not semi-listening while on my laptop. It’s not pseudo-listening while I am cooking dinner. It’s real listening maybe while we go for a walk, or drive in the car or head out for a frozen yogurt and sit across from each other and smile. I have been drawn to a quote for a while that says “Time without attention is worthless”. These are powerful words. I think it goes to the heart of idea of quality time. But I feel like quality time has become one of those things that Americans give lip service to, don’t you? Most of us consider it “time with family” if we are in the same room or house with them while we multi-task on a million different things. And then there’s the problem of not listening to ourselves.
Yes, there is the whole debacle of me not listening to my body. Seriously, could it scream any louder when I am out of balance. I suspect some of you can even hear it screaming where you are right now, ha! But all joking aside, when your joints ache and your pants don’t fit and your feet hurt and your brain is foggy, wouldn’t an intelligent and logical person listen? One would think, but so few of us do. That’s why we are all overworked, sleep-deprived, stressed out, and depressed. It’s why we need alcohol and anti-depressants, mindless TV and Facebook to numb us from hearing that persistent voice inside telling us exactly what we already know, but don’t want to hear. For me the message is SLOW DOWN! DO LESS! RELAX! It’s saying please, please, please I beg of you to go up to your yoga room, or take 20 minutes and meditate, or go out for a walk and breathe all that fresh air! What message is your body telling you?
So I am turning my focus now not to listening (ironically), but to getting things off my plate. My need to open up whitespace in my life, to prioritize and say no. I need to remove more deadlines and stress and quite honestly to love myself more. This is the only way I will be able to listen—truly listen, to those precious people and clients and colleagues that are most important to me. And it is definitely the only way I will ever hear myself.
I know in my heart and in my gut that listening is one of the things that can bring me the most JOY this year. I want to listen to my heart, my loves and my body more than ever before.
Will you join me in finding the Joy in listening? Tell me your answer—I’m listening.