On Listening (Part 1)

We were at a team off-site near the holidays. There were twelve of us and we'd gathered in the home of one of the team's leaders. I'd hired an improv instructor to be part of our gathering and teach us a few tools to build our collective readiness to think on our feet.

There was just enough room in her living room configuration for each of us to have a seat. The instructor was teaching us to remove limits, constraints, and conventionality. She asked us, "If you could do any activity and make a living from it, what would you do?"

Immediately, my heart spoke the answer. And I felt joy.

Each person was given our attention as she or he announced their response.

At my turn, I announced, "I'd be a professional listener."

Heads nodded and my statement was affirmed by people I worked with every day.

I saw it.

They saw it.

Listening is a *thing*.

So, why is it that we treat it like breathing?

In fact, like so many of our senses (taste, touch, sight, hearing, smell), we so often take them for granted and assume a passive stance.

Is it, perhaps, because our senses are receptors of information. These receptors operate below our consciousness. And, yet, with mindfulness we can improve our awareness of the information we are receiving, whether it be taste, touch, sight, hearing, smell.

In his book, Positive Intelligence, and coaching program by the same name, author Shirzad Chamine introduces a tool called "PQ Reps". The reps are practices in mindfulness that are effective at shifting the engine of our brain from the survival-focused, lizard brain (the hippocampus) to our intelligence center of the pre-frontal cortex. The PQ rep most often favored by my coaching clients is rubbing thumb and index finger together with deep attention to the ridges of our fingertips. I invite you to do it now. Rub your thumb and index finger on each hand together and notice the texture and ridges.

For many of us, that is the first time we've ever noticed the way that your thumb and index finger feel together.

How often do we move through life unaware?

And, that is where we begin this journey to becoming a better, stronger, more nimble, and more joyful listener. With awareness.

Awareness that listening is actually happening.

That hearing is a capability and a muscle. (By the way, for those with hearing loss, you are some of the best listeners in the universe.)

In the posts to come, we will deepen our understanding of how we 'hear' (and it isn't always the way you think) and how to turn hearing into listening.


  • As you go through your day, pick one sense (taste, touch, sight, hearing, smell) to become aware of.
  • At least once an hour, stop what you're doing and take notice of that sense. What information is it receiving?
  • Then, share some appreciation with it: "Thank you for being part of my operating system. Thank you for all of the information you give me constantly and the way you bring vividness and connection to my life."

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