The Rivers Daily Muse ep. 4

Lee Rivers

Hi All,

Today's episode of the Rivers Daily Muse will focus on how we can be better people through something called Deep Listening. When I went through the education department at Linfield College this was a major focus, and I heard it again on a Bastyr University retreat I went on last summer. It's a great skill set to cultivate - it will enhance your relationships across the board and you will also see a major improvement with your relationship with yourself as well. And with all this time in isolation with friends and family I am finding immense value in returning to these ideas.

Getting into Deep Listening (or 'active listening' or 'listening for understanding') can get a little heady and, in my opinion, overly-spiritualized. Today I want to think of Deep Listening as a tool, something you can use to your and your loved ones' advantage. This tool will help you get more understanding out of what you are hearing. You will absorb more from the world around you. It, in effect, turns you into a more effective empathetic sponge.

Here is a wildly short crash-course in Deep Listening, shamelessly lifted from the U. of Minnesota's website:

Deep Listening happens at several levels. Deep Listening can happen at:

The intrapersonal level, at which an individual is listening deeply to his or her own interior experience. Mindfulness practice is a foundational training for deep listening at the intrapersonal level.

(read more about mindfulness from the Mayo Clinic here: , there isn't enough room to touch on all the benefits of mindfulness in this post)

The interpersonal level, at which one individual is focused on listening to one or more others. We are often preoccupied by thinking about what we will say when it is our turn to speak. But it is how we listen that is transformative, especially in groups.

The group level, at which one or more individuals is listening deeply to the voices of many others.

There are three key principles and practices for deep listening:

1. Listening to learn
2. Listening for understanding rather than agreement
3. Asking powerful questions

When you listen to learn, instead of waiting for your turn to reply, you may find that your replies change. You may find your thoughts becoming less self-centered. You may, in fact, find that you do not have a 'fitting' reply at all and you are left only with raw empathy - it's uncomfortable at first, but then you learn to be comfortable with that discomfort.

When you listen for understanding, instead of waiting to hear something you agree or disagree with, you listen without any expectations. When you remove your own expectations from a conversation you approach the discussion with open arms. Not only that, but you admit that you do not yet understand, and only after making that admission can you truly learn.

When you ask powerful questions you show your attentive listening, you show you care, you show that you are available to take the conversation as far as it needs to be taken for resolution. You, through you listening, may arrive at a point the other person hadn't entertained yet. You bring a healthy new perspective that comes from a place of openness and love. 

I am supremely guilty of rushing conversations. It's a curse to feel like I know what's coming before it comes. Deep Listening has helped me slow down, open up, and hear what other people are coming to me with - I'm not a perfect listener by any means but I'm working on it. Work on it with me?