Magic of Understanding
"Interested is Interesting"
"Do not listen with the intent to reply. But with the intent to understand."
Are you listening closely to friends and family? Listening to what they have to say? Do you hear them? Or are you thinking of how to respond without understanding? I will be honest and say that I am not always the best listener. I must focus intently on the conversation. Furthermore, anything negative, with a defining tone or "I am right, and you are wrong" often sends me into a tailspin.
Why do I hate the negative? Or question those that proclaim their beliefs with a certainty that everyone believes the same. Where is critical thinking? Nothing is an absolute in life. Look at nature, it is constantly changing and evolving as is the human condition. Isn't that the beauty of having a brain to assimilate new information and adjust a belief? Bottom line, adamant right or wrong belief systems create a simple-minded mentality. Any great thinker, inventor, writer, philosopher, business leader etc., looks at all angles before deciding. Sometimes, they make the wrong decision. If they do, they reset their sails and change course revising their idea of the "truth." The curious mindset is in play.
As you age you realize that surrounding yourself with supporters of you and not takers becomes essential in mental health. Or having strict boundaries with loved ones can stave off a harsh or crass tongue. Of course, being a Polly Anna is not the best solution either. Looking through rose color glasses can protect but again listening is lost. We have to acknowledge the good, the bad and the ugly. Listening is hearing, seeing and understanding.
Back to the question?
How do we really "listen" without becoming a bully or lose a friend over something we have no "real" control?
I have heard from friends that their family members or even friends will no longer speak to one another because their belief system is different. Literally, will not "talk" or engage anymore. Do we think this is healthy? Are we going to put our views to the test and lose connection for the soul purpose of what? To feel superior and righteous? What do we gain?
The Hot Topics
"When people talk listen completely. Most people never listen." Ernest Hemingway.
Let it be known, let it be written - we the collective have minor influence over the upcoming hot topics in our country, around the world and how they will end. All answers are in the cosmos, fortune tellers or magicians. Do your duty when required, requested, and needed. When a controversial subject does not go your way, will you be at peace or be angry? After the champagne and bubbles will you act with grace? We all know the issues troubling the land and each of us have opinions while some take it to the next level and are caustic with their rhetoric. They scorch the earth and sadly do not give a wit to whoever was in their path. After all, their belief is the only belief.
The conversations today are staggeringly different when discussing these "fiery topics" with friends and family. It is apparent that no one is budging, and a curious mind is non-existent for many. Moreover, this is everyone's prerogative, acceptable and okay just do not lose friends or family over issues that cannot be foretold.
Our opinions are a gift to be treasured. And the "truth" is often misconstrued to fit a person's narrative. The funny issue about the idea of "truth" is that it is constantly changing every day during a hair-raising issue. Hearing different stories, varied truths can lead to a state of constant confusion. Only the future holds the results of troubling and heated topics.
In the end, we are responsible for the outcome of our lives and for the fingerprint we leave on others. This is what "listening" is about. Questioning is the start of listening intently. Thinking, assessing information and being open is secondary. However, today no one is listening of hearing. No one is questioning. How do we get back to having a "curious mind?" To be open to other opinions with respect and honor.
How Do We Get Back to Listening?
The Road of The Listener
"One of the sincerest forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say."
I. Ask Questions: Start a conversation with questions as an opening. Being connected means asking how someone is, where they are from, what do they do etc. Questions allow one to get to know another person. Think of it to open a door. It is also a reason why some people are "liked." They ask questions, listening intently and respond. The goal is not to talk about yourself but to let them talk. How many times have you been around someone who never asks a question? Surprising right!
"Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you into trouble."
II. Learn Someone's Story: Along with questioning, is listening inquisitively to someone's story. They could be talking about anything, where they grew up, work or where they play tennis, what books they are reading or what their favorite flower is during the summer months. If you are listening, you will be able remember what they are saying. You will also "hear" their story, emphasize, and find common interests. A common interest is how the connection begins to build.
"Listening is a positive act. You have to put yourself out to do it" David Hockney
III. Listen and Paraphrase: When someone is speaking, they have the center stage. They are the star in the scene. To let someone know you understand or have heard them, paraphrase back what they just said. This helps to clarify what was said and continue with the conversation.
"Listening is making and strengthening connection with another person." Jude Bijou
IV. Connection: The connection happens when you apply questioning, learning someone's story through listening and paraphrasing. The result is a new friend or acquaintance. Those skilled at these three ideas create a new friend and new beginnings. Everyone is being heard and feelings of goodwill abound.
"We need to have empathy. When we lose empathy. We lose humanity." Goldie Hawn
V. Read the Situation or Room: Renowned communicators are skilled at reading body language in a room. They notice the subtle clues in conversations and are aware when to stop or proceed with a topic. Their skill provides them with the tool to sit back, listen and interject when appropriate. They wait their turn with poise, grace, and ease.
If a topic is controversial within a group do not discuss unless you trust it will be civil. Often, religion, politics and now the virus can cause anger and disrespect. Be sensitive to another's ideas if they differ from yours. And, if the discussion becomes too combative, listen, acknowledge, and end the topic. You will not change anyone's mind. It is best to be congenial during difficult and stressful times in our lives.
Center Stage Speaker Oversteps the Boundaries of Communication
Do not keep speaking about a subject when it is obvious that a conversation is done. Be aware and know when to stop talking. Subtle clues and telltale signs can be seen non-verbally. You may also find that people get annoyed if they never get to say anything. This is when you need to interject or tell them to take a breath and give you an opportunity to speak. It is the "yin and yang" in the quality of a conversation.
"Politeness is an inexpensive way of making friends." William Feather
VI. Polite Engagement: It is important to be polite. If you see several talking, do not jump in and interject. Instead, listen, take in and assimilate the information. Wait for your turn to add to the conversation. If you notice, people not being included, add them into the conversation. Be a facilitator, a connector with other people. Oh, and if in a group, try not to have your back to anyone. Keep all included in the group with eye contact and a smile.
"Listening is an art that requires attention over talent, spirit over ego, others over self." Dean Jackson
VII. Love Thyself & Others: There is no hurry in a conversation. The more skilled you become in conversing the better the outcome. In fact, you might find yourself asking all the questions, listening etc., and they never ask you any questions. This can happen often if you are a good communicator. The goal is to allow another to talk and not necessarily for you to speak. However, if this occurs all the time with a friend, you might have to call them out on it. There is nothing worse than having someone do all the talking, not picking up on social ques and hogging the conversation.
One last thought is "fiery topics" can cause frustration in conversations. Be sensitive to another's ideas if they differ from yours. And, if the discussion becomes combative, listen, acknowledge, and end the topic. At this point, and in our current world, you will not change anyone's mind. It is best to be congenial during difficult and stressful times in our lives.
Listening is indeed an acquired skill and an art. We all make mistakes in listening, hearing understanding as our world is spinning so fast these days. The information coming to us is at a high- speed frequency and can overload circuits. Do not beat yourself up, just start over. Be kind to yourself and to others. In the end, friendships and family mean more than arguing about issues that are out of our control.