Pay It Back

Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand.

Here is an excellent and effective way to improve your listening. Find your Listening Center, a place and a way your body can help you listen. Do just three things to put yourself in your Listening Center.

Shush, JJ - Remember Judgment Jabber (JJ), that internal voice that judges you? It can be a mighty powerful impediment to listening. It's the voice inside that tells you are doing something incorrectly, or you can't do something, or you are not doing well enough, or someone does not like you, or you are ignorant, or your hair is wrong. Recognize that voice?

Some of us are not aware that Judgment Jabber is talking to us and competing for our attention when we are trying to listen. Or that it is making us so nervous that we cannot listen well.

By becoming aware of the voice, we very often lessen its negative effects. We can even talk to it. Give it a name and ask it to be quiet for a while. "Jezebel, I am busy listening right now. Shhh." You will be surprised at how the recognition can calm it. That's the first step in finding your Listening Center.

The greatest motivational act one person can do for another is to listen.

De-Armor Yourself - We all have places in our body where we hold our tension - our personal body armor. Mine is usually in my jaw. This tension can be a great interference with listening. However, if we are conscious of it, we can catch this tension when it begins to take hold, stop it and relax it. Check for your body armor when you are listening. Relaxing it is the second step in going to your Listening Center.

Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.

The Listen Position - We have a certain posture, maybe more than one, which we associate with listening. Right now assume a posture that indicates that you are hearing just about the most boring person you have ever heard. That's your opposite-of-listening posture.

And now assume a posture that says you are listening to the most fascinating and brilliant person ever and you want to hear every word. That is your listening posture. If you pay attention to the posture of your body when you are listening, you have taken the third step in resting in your Listening Center.

That's all there is to it. Still your Judgment Jabber, relax, and put your body in a listening posture. Go to your Listening Center and it will be a tremendous ally in making you an excellent listener.

And Today...

When you listen attentively to somebody, you forget yourself. If you cannot forget yourself, you never listen.

You can easily make your Listening Center a part of you, second nature, and automatic. It simply takes a bit of practice. Today begin your practice. When you are listening, consciously follow the three steps to your Listening Center.

It may feel a bit awkward in the beginning but the more you do it, the more it will become a part of you, a splendid habit.

Find your Listening Center at least once an hour today. It will become easier and easier. Today is the first day in developing your new habit. As the days go by, you will marvel at how easy and effortless it is for you to listen.

The benefits are astounding: friends, success, respect, much more. You will be surprised at what you will hear when you really listen.

© 2002 by Stephanie West Allen. All rights reserved.

Stephanie West Allen, This week's Guest Author

About the Author

Stephanie West Allen, JD, brings humor and motivation to organizations and associations. Stephanie is a principal in Allen & Nichols, a Denver-based firm that brings entertainment into the workplace, and conducts training programs using fun techniques to make learning easy, long-lasting and applicable to daily life. Subscribe to her Upsy Daisy Daily newsletter with a vitalizing message each morning, Monday through Friday by sending a blank e-mail to


It is raining still... Maybe it is not one of those showers that is here one minute and gone the next, as I had so boldly assumed. Maybe none of them are. After all, life in itself is a chain of rainy days. But there are times when not all of us have umbrellas to walk under. Those are the times when we need people who are willing to lend their umbrellas to a wet stranger on a rainy day. I think I'll go for a walk with my umbrella.

Eight Gifts

I have written about how life is a gift. When I receive a gift, it is incumbent upon me to either repay the favor, or to pass such generosity on to another person. In the case of the gift of the wonder-filled life that I have been given, and all of the blessings that come with it, passing those blessings on to others, or repaying myself by self-care, is an appropriate response to demonstrate my gratitude.

There are several gifts that I can give to myself and others, gifts that cost little with the exception of time and energy, but that are beneficial beyond ordinary expectation.

The gift of listening is something that everyone can use. Many times in my life, I have heard what someone was saying, but it didn't sink in, because the balance of my attention was elsewhere. Life becomes so complicated at times that giving another person my undivided attention can be difficult. Yet, no matter how trivial the conversation may be, the speaker often knows whether I am listening or not.

Really listening to what is being said requires me to keep my eyes and attention focused on the speaker, not interrupting them until they are ready for some feedback, not daydreaming about other concerns or some fantasy, not planning a response until I have taken the time to hear the individual out, letting them have their say, taking a deep breath and considering what they have said. Often, a simple "let me think about what you have told me before I respond" lets them know I not only heard but really listened to it all. Sometimes, no response is required, other than "I understand, I get what you mean here." An alternative is to repeat the concept back to the speaker to be sure you understand what they said, before going on.

Giving others the gift of my loving heart is a good way to brighten their day. Generosity with hugs and kisses, where appropriate, holding hands, or a simple pat on the back and an understanding or sympathetic look when someone is having a difficult day can demonstrate the love I have for my family and friends. That sentiment for those special people in my life should never go unexpressed, but should be reiterated, out loud, at every occasion.

Laughter is the best medicine, it has been said. The perennial comedian Groucho Marx once stated that a clown is like an aspirin, only it works twice as fast. Consider this: adults average 15 laughs per day, while children laugh nearly 400 times a day! Nothing is so engaging, so heartwarming, as the sound of children laughing, like music in the air.

At California's Loma Linda University Medical Center, Lee Berk, assistant research professor, and Stanley Tan, Endocrinologist, and their colleagues, are in the lead in understanding the physiology of merriment. There are two types of stress: good stress and bad stress. Laughter is a form of good stress, or stress in reverse. Research on stress has shown that bad stress suppresses your immune system. Drs. Tan and Berk found out that a form of good stress, or laughter, improved the immune system. Psychiatrist Robert Holden, who runs laughter clinics for England's National Health Service, says, "Smiling and laughing produce happy chemicals called endorphins which work in the brain to give an overall feeling of well-being." Being unhappy or very sad can seriously damage your health. So don't worry, be happy! And share that happiness with everyone! There is truth in the old saying: He who laughs ...lasts!

My second daughter barely tolerates email. Too impersonal, she thinks, and many would agree. Many individuals who don't have access to electronic communication are becoming increasingly distant from friends and loved ones. Yes, a telephone call can fill in the low spots, and maintaining contact in that way is socially acceptable, but... wouldn't the simple gift of a handwritten note or card say so much more? I have only a few letters from my grandmother and my mother, and only one written message from my father. How I cherish them! No matter how simple my "thanks for your help" note or "hey, son, you're doing a great job" handwritten message seems, (and believe me, my cursive writing is terrible), it may become a treasured gift in the distant future.

Everyone needs strokes. While I am on the subject of handwritten notes, sending along a compliment to friends or co-workers goes a long way to lubricate the wheels upon which turns society, the workplace, and family life. Whether written or stated in person, a sincere yet simple compliment can really make someone's day. Thank the server at the restaurant by telling them they did a suberb job; let that nice young lady know that red is a great color on her; tell mom that was the best Sunday dinner ever... it will make a difference in their life! Here is a great place to get some ideas for great compliments.

Doing a favor for someone is, often, an inestimable gift, especially when the other person hasn't the time to do what is needed. Simple kindnesses have great impact, and are an unexpected boon in the life of a youngster, an elderly person, or a co-worker. Let the frazzled driver of that car merge into my lane - it only puts me about two seconds behind schedule, and besides, another driver was kind enough to let me in back up the road. Wash the dishes while mom takes a break from the kids with a short nap, or whip up his favorite dish instead of that dull casserole, and serve it by candle light, with real linen napkins, while you are at it. There are so many opportunites, each day, to do simple favors for people. Don't wait to be asked.

It is an invaluable gift to give myself a time out and find solitude, gather energy and collect thoughts, or just listen to the Universe and soak up the wisdom that my inner guide has in abundance for me. It is the essence of self-caring to do this on a regular basis. A few weeks back I enjoyed a camping trip to a beautiful lake setting in Washington State. It was a bright sunny day, the first day of Autumn, and the sound of small insects buzzing, the lap of the water on the shore, and the chirp and rustle of birds in the nearby woods was just the perscription to offset the hectic pace of the previous week.

It is an even greater gift, in the life of someone I love or work with, to give them the time or the opportunity for solitude, too! Sometimes, just being left alone, not bothered by the less-than-immediate trivialities of the day is a good way to prepare someone to come back to the ground, ready to deal more effectively with more pressing needs, not to mention the tedia of everyday existence.

One of the simplest gifts I can give someone is a smile and a cheerful disposition. It actually takes more facial muscles to frown, but you probably knew that. I have more creases in my face from smiling and laugher than from frowning, although there are wrinkles from that, too... Both frowns and smiles are contagious - which would I rather be surrounded with? A perpetually positive outlook and a cheerful disposition is truly one of the best ways to lift my spirits and lighten the load of those around me.

Pay it back, or pay it forward. Share these eight gifts with yourself and those whom you love, and you will learn the best and most effective ways to express your gratitude for the gift of life.


The Author

About the Author

Michael is an electrical design engineer, a Freemason, father/stepdad of 8 and grandfather of 16 wonderful kids. His wife was his date to the Jr. Prom.

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