Wednesday, April 10, 2013

living with purpose: why listening can change our lives

If anyone were to ask me one thing that I'm working on, it would be becoming a better listener. I am a naturally expressive and reactive person so it's challenging for me to be still and just listen. I have to work hard at keeping my mouth shut! But ever since I've willfully told myself to first listen before speaking and to always look for the lesson in everything I hear, my life has really changed.

First, I am so much wiser from listening to others' experiences and stories before sharing my own thoughts. I'm reading Lean In right now, and one thing that stuck with me is Sheryl Sandberg's quote that "advice is autobiographical." We all have the ability to grow in wisdom from listening to people younger and older, more professionally experienced or less. Everyone has their unique wisdom. I know I've been mentored by friends who are younger than me-- for example, my incredibly go-getter, entrepreneurial college friend Sam Smith who always motivates me every time we catch up.

Secondly, listening has developed my capacity to love in ways that I couldn't love before. I used to think that loving people is giving encouragement and lifting them up. That is still a loving approach, but I've found that actively listening is also a huge blessing in relationships. Whenever my friends simply stay on the phone with me while I cry or worry, they are showing me endless love. They aren't trying to "fix" my problems. They are quietly saying "I accept you for exactly who are you, even at your lowest." While I always appreciate their advice, listening is enough.

What have you learned from simply listening? Do you find it as challenging as I do? :)

PS: Previous Living with Purpose columns

(Photos from top: lampshade hat and ballerinas)


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