Listening – the Greatest Gift We Can Offer
If we agree that listening is the greatest gift we can offer to another human being, then surely it is the center of all of the games, exercises, and approaches to meet our playful selves. Most often, when we listen to family, friends, and co-workers our thoughts are full of analysis, judgment, and evaluation. We are only experiencing the full meaning of the words as our own restrictions, caused by our evaluation, will allow. We are not fully open to accepting the words being offered as we have closed off a section of our minds and filled it with consideration of a response. When we do respond, we are doing so without having heard the full message.
Does this explain a few things about all the misunderstandings, mistakes, and misadventures in your life? Even though we agree that communication is of the highest value in our relationships, and that listening is integral to effective communication we have little awareness of how well we listen. Listening is what grasps the information necessary in accomplishing any task, yet here we are running around in our lives hearing only portions of what is being said, and expecting that what we are saying is being heard.
How much of the important information we are offered might be leaking out like water through a sieve? Is it any great wonder why we feel so frustrated in our relationships if a great portion of what is being communicated never reaches us?
Hearing without listening is similar to building without following the blue prints. It is like proceeding to assemble a put-together piece of furniture like a bookcase, or computer desk without reading the directions. We end up with all those extra parts. Just as we are about to tighten the last screw, we cannot get the shelf in because of something we missed in step one.
Do you find it a little scary that our relationships, jobs, and lives are being run in this same manner? We are not hearing the information we need to assemble our lives, and expecting to fit things together without leaving any extra parts, or we are listening intently to a friend on our cell phone while moving down the road at 60 miles and hour.
Being and listening allows us to measure and direct our listening so we hear what we need to hear when we need to hear it.
One of the best examples of a breakdown in communication when being and listening is absent is on cable television, when two pundits of opposing parties, associations, or views are discussing an issue. Each person is so filled with espousing a view and making their point, until all space for listening has been squelched completely.
What happens? The participants talk over each other as emotions reach a higher and higher pitch until they seem likely to short out the microphone with vocal spit – and what do we have? We have Conflict, in all of its predictable glory. What is more apparent, is how the participants squabble on with very little self-awareness of how ineffectual they are. They seem to go on as though they can assemble the bookcase, construct a conclusion, or reach a consensus. Why is this?
Once we have lost the perspective of being and listening and lost the value of what another person is saying, we have lost our ability to see ourselves as others see us. We are denying that the voice we recorded on the machine is ours. We think we are presenting an effective point of view, when in reality we might just as well be howling at the moon.
Let me be honest. I do this. You do this. We all do this. When we fail at being and listening, as in the TV interview situation, we do little more than vibrate vocal cords. The point of making an example of the TV interview pundits, is to encourage ourselves to listen with being. What can we do to listen with being in our lives so as not to become argumentative TV pundits with our friends, family, and associates?
The good news is – you may have already come in contact with being and listening when you worked on yes…and… as described previously:
Next time you are conversing with a friend or co-worker, try to keep yes in your mind as you listen. You will find that you are moved into agreement with what you are hearing. Try to follow up by responding with agreement. You may discover how the doors of listening close when we fill our heads with thoughts of what-will-I-say-next and judgments. Try just holding yes as you listen and see how a new door opens as you listen in agreement.
Analysis, Judgment, Evaluation – AJE
Let’s focus on the above direction you practiced earlier as it pertains to being and listening. We will focus on the statement: You may discover how the doors of listening close when we fill our heads with thoughts of what-will-I-say-next and judgments.
Why are we approaching being and listening when we hold yes in our minds? What are we filtering out with the yes that is held there? – Analysis, Judgment, Evaluation. Let’s call it AJE. Let’s call the blockage in the flow the AJE clog in the spigot of communication
You learn how to slow and stop the AJE clog in the spigot by practicing holding yes in your mind and thoughts when you hear another person speaking. You are not just holding the word yes in your mind but you are holding the energy of acceptance. As you push toward acceptance of what another person is saying, the AJE slows and more of your consciousness is experiencing the communication of the other person.
It may seem as though you are leaving your self defenseless when stopping the AJE spigot. Holding yes will not leave you vulnerable and weakened at the opinions of others, but stronger for having heard the full depth of what is said. Once you have truly heard another person you will find a greater trust, on their part, to whatever response you may have after being and listening to them.
Experiment # 6
Being and Listening
Experiment with holding yes in your mind as you listen to another person.
You will find yourself watching yourself as you listen.
As you are holding yes in mind the AJE will try to creep in, so you will develop an awareness of the struggle to listening with being.
You can play with being and listening just about anywhere and anytime with anyone who you are communicating with, and as you practice you will find it progressively easier to slow the AJE spigot. As you begin to develop the skill of being and listening you will also reap the reward of communicating with your playful self. Conversations and discussions will lose some of the heaviness and defensiveness and become more light and playful.
You may want to check out how being and listening might be approached within a group workshop. The video below was recorded at the Community TV studeo in Trempeauleau County Wisconsin with the students of Independence High School. It demonstrates “The Counting Game” as an exercise to point up the value of listening and is one of the examples offered in the last half of the book “Meet Your Playful Self” – The Meet Your Playful Self Workshop.