"Are you too comfortable?"
If your immediate reaction to this question was discomfort, you're on the right track.
Now more than ever, our ability to listen to others is key to achieving collective happiness as an individual and the society overall. Though why is it so difficult for many of us to listen without thinking about how we're going to react or what to say next?
How many of us experienced that the person you were speaking to was disengaged, uninterested and only spoke about themselves? Or that person didn't empathise with you and really try to feel what you feel?
And remember how that left you feeling alone, sad, numb or even disappointed at times?
When we reverse the scenario and you were the listener, have you made someone feel the way you felt? Sad, lonely, numb and disappointed? Has the person who confided in you said anything more than 'thank you' and reached out for you again for support?
Attentive listening only comes from strengthening the compassion muscle. And the compassion muscle can only be trained from looking into yourself and confronting your insecurities and conditioning. It is hard work, but without the deep connection of your inner-self and facing your outer-self, you will become disintegrated. The winner of the disintegration will almost always be your outer-self (ego, narcissism, conditioning), and your inner-self (conscience, compassion, humanity) will eventually fade away.
If you find yourself expanding your comfort zone (what I call a comfort empire) instead of training your compassion muscle - stop and think again. Is disintegration of yourself really what you wish for?
Often, the disintegration of self starts from ignorance of inner-self. The more you stop listening to your conscience and/or work on your conditioning, you will lose your ability to practice compassion. Only the work you put into yourself can be reflected on how you interact with others - if you forget how to reach down within, you will not be able to reach others feelings.
Negative side affect of too much comfort, is that it kills the ability to really listen. Because by the time you've built your comfort empire, self ignorance is on auto-pilot, which again, will be reflected on how you interact with others.
Attentive listening is imaginative empathy.
Attentive listening is being able to surpass words and see that person for who they truly are through what they're feeling deep down.
Attentive listening is how you listen to your inner-self and work on your outer-self.
So I ask again, are you too comfortable? If so, let's get to work.
*If you're unfamiliar with the concept of 'safety' and 'comfort' please read this article.