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How Listening Might Change Your Life - Again

I don't know what it was anymore to hear music for the first time. I'm sure it was deeply exciting and psychedelic and awakening in a way that's completely lost to all of us. I'm sure it blew my little palette clean off.

Baby wearing headphones
The art of listening creates understanding and insights.

In my early life, I can remember being deeply entranced by sounds, by rain and wind, by music, other recordings, by voices - voices made especially more intriguing if they were from other rooms, like I was being let into a secret world; with ears stretching for the words, I could sometimes hear bits but not all of those 'adult discussions' just tantalizingly out of reach.

My grandmother and grandfather did us all a favour in the mid-seventies and recorded some of us kids being asked questions, with the following effects that audio can only deliver because you're forced to hear again and so imagine again. The eagerness. The competing voices to answer (mostly wrong answers to everything, we were five years old or so). The humour and warmth behind my grandma's voice as she patiently corrected us. The hilarity of it all. Hearing something again for the first time, whether music, or a voice, or the simplest of sounds, can transport us back. I might be smiling right now remembering those times.

All of us are born into an amazing world of sound. And we are all witnesses to it as we are everything else. As we get older, we can forget how special and important a practice it is to try to truly listen - to the best of our abilities as adults cut off from our first experiences and instincts. It does take being present. It's hard work now.

When I first worked briefly as a greenhorn journalist, one of the greatest lessons I learned was the power of listening, deeply, with empathy. I would actively and truly try to put myself into their story as themselves, feel what they felt, see through their eyes as best as I could. I forced myself to engage in detail because my story relied on detailed descriptions of physical events. But it was the music of the person, so to speak, that I tried hard to hear and get into everything I wrote. In the end, listening past the words brought them to life.

So, what does all of this have to do with business you might ask? To me, being able to think deeply about anything, to truly understand anything, also means listening deeply and with intention. When you get into the habit of listening, really listening, my experience is that you'll also end up hearing more than you thought was there. This is almost always the case. In business this could very well be your competitive advantage. If it doesn't actually win you business, it might at least make people like you a little better. Everyone loves being heard. Or it might just have the biggest effect of all; it might actually change your whole life.

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