As mentioned in part one of this guide, reaching out can be an effective way of creating inspiration, for both you and other people. It provides a sense of belonging, a sense of ‘being’, and a sense of community. Equally important to reaching out, though, is listening when that person reaches back. We can often become caught up with our own efforts and actually miss the point of reaching out: to engage in a dialogue or discussion with someone who needs it.
Listening is the Greatest Skill
There’s a distinction to be made between hearing and listening. For one, hearing is most basically the action of acknowledging sound – it is the action of receiving. This is important, but can fail to impress a sense of personality upon those who are speaking. Hearing without action is cold. It does not involve what is really important: empathy.
Listening is just the opposite. Listening requires the person to hear, feel, and understand what is being said. It refers to one engaging in the dialogue and acting on it. This is what builds bridges and supports others.
For a contrast of these two, imagine the teenager who hears his parents rules and the one who listens to the rules. The results are vastly different, mainly because of the subsequent actions of the teen.
Applying this to Others
Listening, without a doubt, is a skill. It takes patience, integrity, and sincerity to really hear someone out in this fashion. I always enjoyed the quote by Aristotle, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” To me, this epitomizes the successful skill of listening. You entertain the thought, seriously considering it for its strengths and weaknesses, and then you make a choice to accept it or not.
When it comes to others, this involves understanding their problems and their proposed solutions, and then offering advice for counsel (or sometimes just a hug or shoulder) to better the situation. Listening is an action itself, but don’t think that you need to always listen and then follow up with a solution to everything – sometimes listening is all one needs.