“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus
The Australian Aborigines have rite of passage called a “walkabout” where they go out into the wilderness and live off the land for up to half a year.
Lately i’ve noticed how people communicate a lot. It’s like we’re doing it wrong somehow.
So last week I went out on a search. I tried to learn how to really listen to people.
I’ve come back from my talkabout.
What I realized was how i’ve focused my entire life on how to listen to music. Pick it apart and get to the essence of it. It’s been a joy.
I started listening to what was being said in conversations between others and really listening to what other people were saying.
We have this habit of hearing other people speak but not listening to what they’re actually saying. We’re too busy focusing on what we’re going to say next.
At the same time, words fall short. We’re trying to convey feelings through words. If we understand this fact then it becomes so very clear why we have so much conflict in our daily lives:
The neocortex processes language, the lymbic system handles emotions.
Those two aren’t exactly compatible when communicating.
A man and woman talking. The woman talks about a problem she’s having. The man says “I understand, that must be really tought”. The woman becomes frustrated. The man doesn’t know why and asks “What’s wrong?”. She answers “I don’t need your sympathy, I need you to grow some damn balls and give me a frickin’ solution Nancy!”.
Sometimes the neocortex is EXACTLY what we need to use to communicate. Most of the time we’re dealing with people. Whether we’d like to admit it or not our thoughts are most of the time based on feelings.
If we try to really listen and relate to the person and put ourselves in their emotional shoes instead of trying to analyze and rationalize what’s being said we might get further.
Most common errors we make?
1. Preparing our own statements while the other person is talking, not really listening and understanding.
2. Offering a solution instead of empathizing. Or in rare occasions vice versa.
3. Answering: “Let me tell you about when I went through something similar…”
What we could do instead!
1. Listening and understanding where the other person is coming from. Asking follow up questions when we can’t really relate.
2. Giving a proper response once we understand what’s driving the other person.
3. NOT answering: “Let me tell you about when I went through something similar…”
I recommend reading/listening to Stephen Covey’s great book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.
There’s a lot of subtext in our daily speech.
Something that’s been lost in our modern education are the liberal arts of learning how to speak and how to listen.
We really need to get them back in there!
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” – Winston Churchill
“When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen.” – Stephen Covey
“Listen to the desires of your children. Encourage them and then give them the autonomy to make their own decision.” – Denis Waltley
“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” – Karl A. Menninger
Who Move My Cheese?