Deep listening can build trust and understanding, which are important to developing greater intimacy in relationships. To listen deeply asks us to be receptive to our partner while holding our viewpoint with some looseness. In other words, listening deeply to someone else often means getting our ego out of the way while we focus on understanding our partner.
Recently I have been thinking that listening deeply is like shooting an arrow at a target or like standing at bat in baseball. In archery and in baseball, the optimal result happens when the actor is grounded yet flexible, focused as well as willing to let go. An archer stands strong, but lets the bow fall forward after an arrow is released. If she grasps the bow, then the arrow may veer off course. A hitter at the plate stands ready and alert while patiently watching for a pitch in the strike zone. If he reacts to every pitch, then he has a higher likelihood of striking out. A listener who reacts to her conversation partner from an ego-focused stance is more likely to take a conversation off course or to strike out.
In the next post, I will write about ways we can practice being receptive to our conversation partner.