The Art of Listening
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I’ve got some work to do.

I used to think I was a good listener.

Some friends told me that was the case, and I heard them very clearly because I liked what they were saying.

Recently, however, I’ve realised I don’t listen at that same level all the time, and evidently, there are times when I don’t listen well at all.

I’m writing about this now because I think listening is an undervalued skill that many of us take for granted.

We think, if our ears are functioning, listening just happens.

Maybe that’s because when we don’t listen, we don’t realise what we have missed unless someone points it out… and we actually listen to what they tell us.

That happened to me recently while I was playing the guitar.

I’ve been hacking away for just over eight years now and I’ve finally got enough confidence to think I might be able to play some of the old blues and rock numbers I played on my stereo when I was growing up.

Hendrix, Cream, Black Sabbath, The Stones. That sort of thing.

Fortunately for me, my partner has enough patience to work on the songs with me.

She plays guitar and electric bass, and she is very good. She also seems to have an ear for music.

I figured that was simply because she has great timing, but she said something the other day that made me think there’s more to it than natural talent… and it probably involves listening.

While I was struggling to get the timing down for a Black Sabbath tune, she asked, “how often have you really listened to the song since we started working on it?” We’d been trying to play Paranoid for over a year so I was a bit embarrassed to admit, “maybe three or four times.”

So, there you go, I’ve been trying to do something I find very challenging, but I’ve never bothered to listen closely enough to really hear the timing and get the feel.

I just dived in and started playing after watching a lesson a few times on my computer.

And that’s the kind of thing I suspect many of us do much of the time in our day-to-day lives.

We start doing things before we have taken in all the information we need, we start working out responses to what people are saying before they have finished making their point and we often start speaking before they have finished.

That means we are not really listening and our actions and comments are often based on faulty information.

Then there are the distractions.

The phones, the computers, the tvs.

They pull our attention away from what is happening around us and, like what appears to be happening in the picture at the top of this page, they make us less available to others.

That’s not good.

I guess what I’m saying is that it isn’t easy to listen these days.

Doing it well takes practice.

But wouldn’t it be great to really understand what others are saying, or for that matter, be able to play a song well enough to make people want to listen.

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