Listening – A Lost Art

In life we are all faced with many challenging situations. Managing family dynamics, experiencing a health crisis, job stress and more. Whether you are trying to help others or facing your own personal challenges, the key to effectively managing situations is all about communication, and it starts with listening differently.
How we “think” influences how we “listen”, influences how we “act”. If you’ve determined that you don’t agree with the person speaking, how actively do you listen to them? Are you opening your mind to hear not only the words they use but the intent behind them? Too often we have a tendency to listen with an intent of confirming why the speaker is wrong, in the process confirming why our differing opinion is right.
Another variation occurs in preparation for an unpleasant conversation. It may involve a family member, co-worker etc. I witness these conversations all the time. As I try to understand where they’re at, I frequently hear that they’re at a stalemate. As I investigate further, I usually find that both sides are so convinced their point of view is the right one that they’ve stopped listening and are no longer hearing anything said contrary to their opinion. 
How did they get to this dead end? It starts with how we anticipate the impending difficult conversation. Here’s how I picture our thoughts:
• We play out the conversation in our head, over and over again. 
• We prepare our arguments. This time I’m prepared with my comebacks.
• Once we have our speech down, are we compelled to listen with an open mind, or are we compelled to listen for an opportunity to insert our well thought out points because we’ve spent a lot of time preparing them and after all we are right!
• Does that lead to active listening or aggressive listening?
What if we did less telling and more asking. Help me understand what you mean by that. How did you come to that conclusion or belief? Tell me more about that, I’d like to better understand it. Don’t abandon your personal beliefs. But when we feel heard, we have more faith in the person listening, and open our own minds to more possibilities. When there are two genuinely open minds,anything is possible. 
The most successful conversations start with a mindset of listening.