" 'There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.' - Ben Williams
Have you ever talked to a dog? Not just the “Who’s a good boy? Spike’s a good boy” stuff, but really talked? About your struggles, your heartaches, your joys? Have you ever thrown self-consciousness to the wind and bared your soul to a canine friend?
If not, you might want to try it. No appointment necessary, no co-pay required. Well, maybe a walk or a treat...
If you have talked to a dog this way, how did it make you feel? You probably felt free. Free to say whatever you wanted to say, without the burden of making logical sense, justifying your position, or having to tell an entertaining story. Free to feel whatever you needed to feel.
You probably felt unrushed. As if you had all the time in the world to speak your piece - and your listener wasn’t checking his watch or cell phone and edging toward the door."
So begins Listen Like a Dog - and make your mark on the worldby Jeff Lazarus. Jeff shares tips on how to improve your listening skills via the non-judgemental and in-the-moment presence of man's (and woman's) best friend. The book is interspersed with stories about famous dogs like Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Chaser. If you're like me, you'll be curious about some of the books that Jeff references, which will make your book list even longer!
Points to Ponder
"It seems the easier, faster and more fun it's becoming to connect with one another virtually, the harder it's becoming to connect with one another in reality." (Page 38)
He goes on to make the point that we make our meaningful connections when we deeply listen to one another.
"The problem with digitization is that you end up not knowing people as well as you think. The biggest part of the other person is lost between the digits. You fill in the rest with your own mind and your own biases." (Page 44)
Here's a question that Jeff asks in his workshops. Fill in the blank: _____________ silence. "Awkward" is frequently used. What did you say? Most people in the West are uncomfortable with silence, despite what some spiritual folks know and what science is beginning to recognize. As Jeff says:
"If you want to become a doglike listener, you will need to become a champion of silence. You'll need to recognize and harness the power of the paws (pause)." (Page 126)
The Power of Listening
"Human beings, it turns out, have a remarkable ability to solve their own problems, given the time and space to do so." (Page 141)
Have you ever noticed that when someone sits and truly listens to you as you describe your issue/problem/concern, that you end up resolving it on your own? Having a non-judgemental, non-interrupting witness is empowering.
There are some professions where clear communication is a matter of life or death. Air traffic control, pilots, First Responders, the military and search and rescue. While it's not a matter of life and death, other professions could benefit greatly if they adopted a model that fosters better listening skills.
Think about your personal relationships. Who do you consider good listeners? How do you feel when you're around those people? Enough said.
Making the Stress Connection
"The second key organ of listening is the heart. Many of us, when listening, make the mistake of using only our heads. We focus all of our attention on trying to download the information that's being conveyed. But if you want to make a connection - the way a dog would - you need to engage with the person as well. That means using the heart." (Page 69)
Jeff informs us that emotional attunement happens through the heart. I don't think it's a coincidence that the word "heart" contains the word "ear". I even wrote about it here: Listen with your "hEARt".
Your heart signals change when you are under stress. You could say that the brain's CEO is no longer in the building! The higher thinking functions go off-line - survival is paramount. Is it any wonder that listening skills go out the window?
A Word of Advice
Throughout the book you'll come across a phrase that is written in different ways, but it's meaning is the same. "Is this a good time to talk?" Not only is it respectful, but it also signifies that you have something important you'd like to discuss.
Book giveaway for Listen Like a Dog:
- One person will receive a copy of Listen Like a Dog - and make your mark on the world.
- This contest is open to anyone of legal age who has a mailing address in Canada or the US.
- Contest closes at midnight PST on Monday December 12th, 2016.
- To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below.
- Earn another entry by subscribing to my mostly monthly newsletter. Let me know if you’re already a subscriber. You'll receive two entries!
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Disclosure: I received a review copy of Listen Like a Dog - and make your mark on the world courtesy of HCI Books.