Communication. I am learning that I am a very flawed individual. My communication skills need work and I need to learn to truly, really listen.

I recall when my niece, the oldest one, was 3 years old. She was talking to me and apparently I was not listening effectively because she said to me "Auntie, teacher said there are three Ls in learning and none of them is talking; look, listen, learn." She was direct, unapologetic and wise. Sadly, I didn't learn much from that little lesson.

Today, one of my greatest challenges is still listening. I find that I am in a hurry to speak when someone is speaking to me. There is an eagerness, a race to the finish line and apparently, but sadly, an urgent need to spill my own words as if I may lose my mind, power and thoughts if I don't say something quickly.

So after a morning talk war with a really good friend of mine, I found myself feeling completely disappointed in the way the conversation went and my role in it. I left the conversation feeling like my communication was belittling, dismissive, self-centered and potentially toxic. I didn't feel good on the inside. I didn't feel like I had done something good, although my intentions were to share with him a conversation about mindfulness. As I look back at it I am not certain how mindful I was being.

So I am on a journey now to learn to listen and so far I have learned three things:

  1. According to Dr Steven Covey, we should listen to understand, then to be understood. I have known this habit by Covey for a couple of years now. So how has this helped me today? I am learning that giving the people we care about a voice, and a safe space to use that voice has a greater benefit, and can get us what we desire from them much faster than words ever will.

  2. When we speak, research suggests that only 7% of what we say actually connect. This too I have also known for a couple of years. So what new understanding have I garnered from this? Listening lessens my chances of hurting the people I care about with my attitude, tone and in the moment words. Listening allows me to demonstrate that I care more easily than words ever could.

  3. I recall three different men, who never knew each other, who were all close to me on separate occasions say the following to me: be the bigger sponge, it is better to be kind than to be right and the third, why are you being so hard on me. Today these words mean something to me. I believe I hear them all asking me to listen instead of using my words to hurt them.

Listening is now my mountain to conquer. I will take this challenge and redesign my life around it. I shall learn to listen so effectively that its silence will hang in the air like a safety net for the people I care about. Even if I never get to 'say my side', I would be better off for it.

Listen to Podcast Episode on this topic.

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