There are three basic levels of listening.

  1. Listening to yourself
  2. Listening to those you know
  3. Listening to strangers

I advocate that we practice all three of these on a daily basis.


Listening to yourself

Listening to yourself can be as basic as just listening to your heartbeat and feeling the breath come in and out of your nose and mouth before your head leaves the pillow each morning. It doesn’t have to be a long and involved practice, but it allows you to start the day listening to yourself.

If you don’t tune into you each day, how can you be expected to hear what anyone else has to say?

I try to “check in” with myself several times throughout the day. I get up from my desk. I stretch and take a few deep breaths. I listen to how I am feeling and go from there.


Listening to those you know

The second level of listening involves hearing those you know. For most of us, this involves family first. Whether it is in the bedroom or kitchen, most of us encounter loved ones to start the day. And, they all want us to listen to them.

I’ll tell you something that many of us don’t focus on – each day we have the chance to be connected to those we care about most – and we never get that chance back. So, be available to your partner, children or parents each day or know that you’ve wasted an opportunity that is gone forever.

This listening to those we know continues when we leave our home and head out into the world. We choose every day whether or not to listen to co-workers; friends; people at the gym or coffee shop. Our willingness to listen to others is the willingness to have a major impact in the life of someone else. This is an amazing power that lies within each of us.


Listening to strangers

The third, and highest, level of listening involves being willing to hear a stranger’s story. People we don’t know who open up to us often have no one in their life to talk to. This saddens me but I find it to be the case more and more often. Our 21st century, high-tech communication world has limited the amount of basic conversation that takes place. And, if you no longer have people with whom to share your stories, you will reach out to people you don’t know who are willing to listen.

So, I ask you – are you willing to give some of your time to a stranger? I know that our time is valuable. And, most of us live our lives on tight schedules where there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day for all we need to do; for those we know; and for ourselves. So, where is the value in giving your time to a stranger’s story?


Using all three levels of listening

That’s where the magic is. I can’t tell you where the value is. You have to find that out for yourself. But you’ll never find out if you fail to give some time to someone you don’t know who clearly needs your ear. This isn’t just an act of “charity” by the way. You benefit in ways you can’t imagine when you take the time to hear a stranger.

Please consider these three levels of listening and practice them on a daily basis.
You’ll never regret it. I promise you.

And please feel free to share your listening stories with me. I’m at Who knows, your story might end up right here next to mine.


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