A colleague recently described the best listener he knows.
“This person always makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room.”
Most of us are lucky enough to know one of those people. But they’re far from common.
What do they do that others don’t? They demonstrate care. They orient themselves toward other people. They communicate through words and actions the deep value of others as humans.
Though it includes tolerance, this goes far beyond tolerance. It’s actively willing the good of the other person. Dare I say, it’s love.
You know the difference this makes. I’ve rarely met anyone who is a horrible listener with everyone in their lives. Take someone who struggles to listen at work. With their children or their spouse or close friends, they will take a breath, slow down, and at least attempt to be present.
That’s because how you see the other person makes all the difference. If they’re simply a means to an end or an obstacle or a distraction, hurry and self-focus are ready to pull your attention away. If they’re someone whose life matters to you, for whom you actively want good things, it’s much easier to be present.
That’s what caring does. It opens us up to being able to listen well.