Sailing across glassy water is often portrayed as an uncomplicated journey with a destination ending in paradise, but what’s not generally highlighted in the glossy sailing brochures is that sailing takes immense dedication and skill if one’s to master the skill needed to cross a body of water.
Listening Listening also takes immense dedication to learn how to be with both the words and the person who is sharing those words brimming with meaning and flavors not obvious to the casual listener, nor chock full of nuance to the observer lost in a daydream or a petty squabble with themselves.
The Art of Listening Listening is so often derailed by distractions, questions, speaking and squeaking that the conveyance of meaningful words often ends with “where was I” followed by a forlorn grin and a stumbling muttering of despair.
For a moment imagine a sailor becoming discombobulated at the sight of her shipmates nodding off in the crows-nest, then turning to the captain and saying, “where am I?”
Why is Listening Listening so low on the important skills list we need to learn? One reason for the lack of importance is we are taught to memorize facts and information and then spew it back on tests in search of high grades. Another reason we are not taught the art of listening listening is because it may inoculate us from the constant distractions being thrown our way. The advertisements, notifications, products and services that bombard our senses and invade our space. If we knew how to listen we would be better able to tune the distractions out and no purveyor of distractions wants that, now do they.
Listening well is an exercise of attention and by necessity hard work. It is because they do not realize this or because they are not willing to do the work that most people do not listen well.
M. Scott Peck
Imagine yourself walking into a meeting, the first thing you see upon entering the room is 3 out of 4 of the meetings participants are standing on their heads, their legs and feet leaning against the wall pointing to the ceiling. It’s an unusual situation to say the least and you find your heart racing a bit.
Ask yourself, how would I handle the situation?
Would I stand on my head as well? Would I act as if everything seemed normal? Maybe you’d do something unexpected yourself? Or maybe you’d feel so uncomfortable you’d turn and walk (run) away?
What would be your reaction?
Listening Listening to someone can be a unique and disconcerting experience just like the above scenario. If you point your attention toward a listener with effort you may hear (and feel) things that make you uncomfortable. You may also hear something that blows your mind with its simplicity, beauty or maybe it’s revolutionary outlook.
We don’t really know what we’ll hear, do we? We may tell ourselves that we know the people sitting around the table, and they’ll share nothing new or useful so why bother. But if they have yet to speak or you have yet to listen how do you know what will be shared?
These are simple questions I’m asking you to think about. How do you know, what you’ll hear? Just maybe the problem is not what they’ll say, but that you won’t hear what they’ll say, you’ll daydream their words and ideas into oblivion.
What’s Being Said About Listening
I’ve collected an eclectic list of what others are saying and writing about listening, you’ll find it below. Take a mindful moment to sit and read 3 or 4 of these posts. You may read (hear) something you didn’t know people were saying and you may be pointed down a road that is well worth the journey to travel.
*****Throughout this post I purposely use a mirrored pair of our topic Listening Listening. I want to make you a bit agitated, a bit uncomfortable. I think mirroring may bring you back to the present, even for a brief moment. Listening Listening is an important skill and one that rarely (read: never) lends itself to skimming a page or daydreaming while in a conversation.*****
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