“The practice of deep listening is the practice of open inquiry, without assumption or judgement” - Sharon Weil
I loved my chat with Al Milledge on this week’s Insightful Conversations. Al is an Innate Health coach and business coach. He also works with Beyond Recovery, an organization that helps people with repeat offending behavior, complex mental health issues, and drug and alcohol problems involved in the criminal justice system.
Al’s interest in working within the prison system started way back when he was a child when one of his family members was sent to prison. It was then that Al realized that good people could end up in jail too. So, it was serendipitous that during his coaching training at Aaron Turner’s One Thought Institute, Al would connect with Susan Marmot and Jacqueline Hollows. That was the beginning of his journey in sharing the Principles with young men who found themselves in the prison system.
When Al first went into the prisons to help facilitate the men’s groups, he was a bit nervous. But after a couple of visits, he began to settle, and he knew he was in the right place. Studying the 3 Principles had prepared him for the work. One of the skills Al had learned was the art of deep listening, which he implemented within his men’s groups. Al never asked the inmates what crimes they’d been convicted of. Instead, he wanted to meet them exactly where they were at, which was in the present moment, not in the past. Al wanted to experience them beyond his judgments or preconceived ideas of who they were and what they’d done.
Al said that before coming across the Principles, if someone had told him that he wasn’t a good listener, he would have said you were wrong. He thought he was a brilliant listener. Al jokes that at parties, his husband would always find him in the kitchen, cornered by someone telling him their life story and problems. Looking back, Al realized he wasn’t really listening to the person; instead, he was in his head panicking or trying to solve the other person’s problems.
Al is not alone. How many of us think we are great listeners when the truth is we are not. Instead of being fully present and taking in what the other person is sharing with us, we are innocently listening to the cacophony of our busy minds. We are lost in our own stories, eagerly waiting to jump in and share our perspectives and experiences. Or god forbid when someone shares a problem with us, we rush into rescue mode. Convinced that we know what’s best for them, we start problem-solving, planning, and strategizing. We are so eager to share our unsolicited advice, we interrupt each other and don’t allow the other person to listen to their own wisdom.
On the other hand, deep listening means listening to each other with an open heart and an open mind. To listen to each other with curiosity and wonderment. To listen to each other, knowing that each one of us has our own innate wisdom, resilience, and wellbeing within us. To listen to each other without preconceived ideas of who we think the other person should be or what they should do. To listen to each other free of judgment, prejudice, or assumptions. To listen to each other with compassion without trying to fix or change the other person or their experience of life. To listen to each other, knowing that we each have everything we need within us. To listen to each other, knowing that we are perfect just as we are.
When we practice deep listening, we create the space for each of us to feel seen, heard, loved, and appreciated for who we are in our totality. Deep listening is an expression of unconditional love and respect for one another as we navigate the world of form as spiritual beings having a human experience.
With love and appreciation, Del💕