I heard someone use an intriguing expression today in a conversation. She talked about empathetic listening and used the expression “listen with soft eyes.”
If you take it literally, it sounds kind of stupid. Of course, people listen with their ears, not their eyes. But when you take into account that 90% of communication is nonverbal, it starts to make more sense.
Most of us (me emphatically included) tend to listen not to hear but to respond. All the while the other is speaking, we’re coming up with the perfect retort to win the argument or the perfect solution to fix the other’s problem.
To me, listening with soft eyes means listening with compassion. It means I don’t try to fix the way you feel– even if it seems irrational and counterproductive to me. It’s me saying, “I know what you’re going through is hard and I know you must feel scared or tired or frustrated. I’ve felt like that lots of times before.”
Real listening is an art form that takes practice. Especially if you have a flighty attention span like me. You have to train yourself to listen not to just words being spoken but to facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc.
I confess that while I like to think I’m a good listener, many times I am anything but. I can get distracted and lose the train of the conversation and walk away without any clue about what the other person was saying.
I think a lot of us do that. It’s happened to a lot of us. And it’s frustrating when you know you’re not being heard. Truly heard.
So one of my Second Half of 2015 Resolutions is to work on listening better. Being a better friend, husband, wife, lover, father, mother, son, daughter, or anything else starts by being a better listener.
So, I’m learning to listen with soft eyes.