Whether you’re talking to a child, a co-worker or the love of your life, when we stop, look and listen to them, we’re giving them our full attention, which says YOU MATTER! All three actions are keys to having meaningful, connected conversations which in turn leads to significant, connected relationships.
What does it mean to stop?
Stop means purposefully ending whatever you’re doing to give someone undivided attention. Close the laptop, lay down the phone, put it on silent, remove the earbuds, stop folding the clothes and turn off the television. STOP means to remove yourself from anything that is fighting for your attention. It’s not always convenient, but “stop” requires intentional focus. It demonstrates interest in the other person, their world and whatever interests them.
“The first act of love is always the giving of attention.” Dallas Willard
What does it mean to look?
To look is to face them, look at them in the eye. When you look at someone in the eye, they feel they’re receiving your full and undivided attention. When we don’t “look,” we often miss some of their feelings because we miss facial expressions, body language and the pain or glee in their eyes. Neuroscientists are finding that eye to eye holds our attention. It keeps us from getting distracted and mind wandering. Research shows that eye to eye contact also shapes our perception of the person who is meeting our gaze. We see them as more sincere, and it creates a kind of melding of each other. Another study suggests that we can read complex emotions from the eye muscles, whether the person is narrowing or opening their eyes wide. The old adage that our eyes are the windows to our souls may be more than a grain of truth.
“Our eyes say the words we leave unspoken.”
What does it mean to listen?
Listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload. Yet it’s imperative to the wellbeing of our relationships and our society. Fortunately, we can train ourselves to be better listeners, but it is hard work. Listening is active not passive and, therefore, is sometimes tiring.
It is others-centered not self -centered and, therefore, sometimes sacrificial.
It is crucial not peripheral and, therefore, indispensable. It is difficult not easy and, therefore, often neglected. It is scarce not common and, thus, exceedingly desirable. Listening is not like a chess game – planning your next verbal move while the other person is talking. Listening is not a trial – judging what is said or how it is said. It is not a 100-yard dash – thinking how quickly you can end the discussion. Listening is like a sponge – absorbing as much as possible of what is being said and the feelings behind the words. It’s like a pair of binoculars – fixing attention on and bringing into clear focus what is being said. Generous listening requires discipline, effort, intentionality and practice. Becoming a better listener is developing a pattern of attention.
“The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” Karl A. Menniger
Show your spouse, child, friend, co-worker and neighbor that they matter. Set aside your own needs and desires long enough to Stop, Look and Listen.
Lisa May is the Executive Director of Live the Life South Florida etc. She can be reached at [email protected] or by mail at 5110 N. Federal Hwy. Suite 102, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33308