It was off the cost of Hawaii that Gary Zukav and his partner floated on their backs with their ears just beneath the surface of the calm ocean waters; they were listening.  He said, “The first thing I heard was my breath, but when I stopped breathing, I could hear faint sounds.  First a soft clicking…then a chirping noise.  If I hadn’t been listening so carefully, I would not have heard anything” (p. 30).   They then stood up and looked in the distance at a passing pod of dolphins.  

Good listening, as we know, is hard work.  We have to be quiet enough to hear beneath the surface of assumptions.  We have to be still enough to value the words of others.  Gary Zukav said there were times when they returned to the ocean to listen, but the high waves and rough waters prevented them from listening beneath the surface.  What represents your high waves and rough waters?  How do these prevent you from listening?  If you know there are things to be heard beneath the surface, even when there are rough waters, are there techniques you can use to hear better? 

Richard Carson, Ph.D., posed a number of questions around listening that are worth considering:

  • Do you truly listen to your colleagues?
  • Do you let them finish their thoughts before you take your turn?
  • Do you sometimes finish sentences for other people?
  • In meetings, are you patient and responsive – or are you impatient and reactive?
  • Do you allow words from others to sink in or do you assume you know what the person is trying to say, so you jump in?

I admit there are times when my listening skills could use some improvement (my partner would find some humor in this statement).  I catch myself jumping in when I should have waited or reacting after a long day.  Awareness and a commitment to deep listening are important if we are going to evolve well as a community.  We know rougher waters prevent us from hearing all information; however, we can honor what we can’t hear by increasing our response time or by creating a calmer space in which to listen. 

I look forward to our conversations in the coming weeks.  I will be listening.

** This week’s blog honors our shared values of Respect and Empathy.  We recently added the comment from Stephen Covey under this heading that says, “Seek to understand before being understood” and added, “Listening to each other.”

   Carlson, R. (1998). Don’t sweat the small stuff at work: Simple ways to minimize stress and conflict while bringing out the best in yourself and others. New York: Hyperion.

  Zukav, G. (2000). Soul stories. New York: Simon & Schuster.