The Gift of Being Neutral
In our ongoing training and honing of our listening skills, one of the things that we can be reminded of is remaining neutral in our role as listener. In the service of listening to another we are mindful of our facial expressions, body posture, and the impulse to nod in agreement. As listeners, we remain neutral while we are present with another as they share their story.
Remaining neutral is an ‘in the moment’ response to our guests and not intended to be a prescription for behavior. What I mean, of course, is that listening isn’t the outcome of somehow forcing ourselves to remain neutral and limit our facial expressions. But through our awareness of our own responses and behaviors we add a level of skill to our service of heart-filled, deep listening.
To put it simply, when we are neutral our guest is free to experience whatever they are experiencing, share whatever they are moved to share, independent of us. It is their story to share, it is their heart and their experience for them to voice. We, as listeners, pay attention to healthy boundaries but we don’t dictate or demand or restrict what a guest shares. This is the gift of true listening.
If we nod in agreement or smile or frown in response to our guest’s story, it has an impact on our guest. If our guest has an important story they need to share and get off their chest but see our smiles or subtle frowns, they may hold back or shift the direction of the story. They may desire to please us or they may resist being too close if they don’t like or aren’t comfortable with the expressions that wash across the face of the listener.
And yet we are not robots, stiff and silent and inhuman. There will be some kind of response that each of us have when we are listening and our response itself is not bad or unskillful or even possible to avoid. Yet as we practice this service that we so deeply love, we have the opportunity to become more and more aware of our reactions and responses and this increases our capacity to sit as deep listeners. The more aware we are the more we can actually allow our guests space to be themselves and share what their hearts need to share.
This is the art of deep listening. No robot or recording can suffice when it comes to the most basic of human interactions – one human being listening to another human being. Art is free and spontaneous, not rule-bound or prescriptive. Art flows from ever deepening awareness. And so it will be as we each hone our skills in the sacred art of listening.
Being neutral, and valuing being neutral, is not the same as checking out or being numb. Quite the opposite. To value being neutral in our response to our guests and their stories is a profound offering based on love for others and our desire to serve from as sensitive and aware place as possible. Being neutral gives another person space to be themselves. A gift, indeed.
our ongoing thanks for your commitment to listening,