First off, what IS listening and loving, anyway?
This is my interpretation. Your mileage may vary.
I think that listening and loving primarily refers to keeping your heart and mind open when interacting with people that may be different from you with respect and kindness.
But how do you do that?
Be ready to actually LISTEN.
Everyone has a unique way of expressing their point to the world. Unless you allow them to share their unique perspective – and actively attempt to interact with and understand it – there is no way to appreciate how precious every single person is.
Listening, as obvious as it may sound, is the opposite of speaking for a reason – because it is about hearing another person’s point-of-view, not sharing your own. Resist the urge to add personal advice or criticisms. It is extremely helpful to step outside of yourself and consider things from another person’s way of thinking. Putting aside your preconceptions and personal opinions about the matter as you listen is important as well.
Body Language is Key.
When it comes to interacting with a person, your body language speaks for itself – part of the reason people say “actions speak louder than words”! As noted in one of my previous articles, about smiling more, your physical actions can have a profound effect on how you feel and behave. Holding yourself in a more open place not only communicates to another person that you are receptive to them but it also can make you feel more ready to listen.
Important things to remember include:
- Maintaining an open posture. Try to avoid positions where you are “closed off” from another person. This can include turning away, hunching over or crossing your arms. The more tense and uncomfortable you seem, the more likely it is that the person you are speaking to may feel the same way.
- Acknowledge the speaker with your gestures. This can include anything from an interested facial expression to an emphatic nod. Reacting to their words shows that you are paying attention and considering what they have to say.
- Maintain eye contact. This is probably one of the most important things! Eyes are considered a “window to the soul” for a reason. When you are making eye contact with someone in an deep conversation, you can see their emotions clearly conveyed in their eyes, which can make you more aware of these emotions in yourself, fostering a feeling of empathy, which can be extremely important.
Go deeper. Ask questions.
If someone is sharing something important with you, it is extremely beneficial to learn more. Rather than probe in a way that may cause defensiveness, use your questions as a way to convey your interest and let someone know that you would love to know even more. In tense discussions, it may be helpful to frame things in a way that it is clear that the goal is to respond to you, rather than the speaker having to explain themselves in a way that may be uncomfortable. Also, be sure to attempt to phrase your questions in a way that responding with a yes or a no is discouraged!
If the person is speaking on a topic they have a passion for, they would probably be more than happy to satisfy your interest.
This one might seem extremely obvious, but it can often be the hardest one to carry out. Love does not have to specifically refer to the deep feelings one may have for someone close to your heart. Compassion, a different form of love, can speak volumes. Be in their corner. Support their endeavors. Keep in touch. If asked, give them thoughtful advice that holds true meaning and value to you. Care for them. Work to not only tolerate their differences, but accept, respect and appreciate them. Be a friend.
Above all, be kind.
What is your definition of “Listen and Love”? How do you, or how would you, practice it in your life?