Firstly, I want to apologize for not writing the last two days and reaffirm my commitment of writing everyday (M-F). I had exhausted my body through the course of last week and ended up with a well-being issue for which I choose to rest rather than push my body any further. Thanks to each of you for your prayers, thoughts, and concern.
Most of us probably believe that we are pretty good listeners. And, yet, when we examine our actions, we could probably all see some room for improvement. And though the subject of today’s blog is on listening, I’m going to write about listening differently than how you may have thought of it before.
Most of you are probably familiar with active listening – wherein you continuously give up any thoughts, ideas, or decisions you are making about the other person or his situation while listening to him speak. Rather than formulating your next response based on something he communicated early on in his last communication, you take a step back, and choose your communication after he has completely finished his speaking. This allows you, as the listener, to be fully present to everything that is being communicated rather than allowing your own thoughts to interrupt your ability to hear everything the other person is communicating in the moment.
In today’s blog, though, I want to write about the art of listening to the other from the context of who you know that person to be. To better frame this statement, let’s look at the definition of context. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines context as: “1: the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning 2: the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs : environment, setting.” I prefer to use the second definition of “the conditions in which something exists or occurs.” In other words, it is a framework through which (or, for how) we view others / other things.
Choosing our context is extremely important because it, in essence, colors how we view something. In listening to others, I find it a very powerful place to stand if I always choose the context of listening to others for who I know them to be. [Now here I must provide explanation because I’ve repeated asked you to “give up” who you know others to be so that you can fully experience them. I’m not going back on that request so much as I am asking that you choose a very powerful point-of-view, or context, in which to listen to others.]
If we were to collectively name all of the great traits that we’ve personally witnessed in others, we might come up with a list like: powerful, compassionate, enduring, kind, strong, vulnerable, loving, peaceful, understanding, wise, joyful, grateful, playful, etc. What I’m suggesting, is that even if we don’t always portray all of these traits, they are available for each of us to manifest and they are hidden within each of us - - even though some of us haven’t yet learned to tap into them.
So, as an example: If my friend, Mark, tells me that he wants to talk to me and he goes on to tell me a story of how he was wronged and how badly mistreated he was by another, my predisposition is to give him my ear and sympathize with him. But that doesn’t call on him to be powerfully in action. My sympathy only solidifies his stance that he has been wronged and should not be to blame for the outcome. Rather, as a friend, I want Mark to live up to his full potential, taking responsibility for the matter, accepting how things are, and powerfully taking the actions he needs to take.
So, in order for me to listen to him powerfully, I have to choose a context in which to listen to him. Since he is coming from a place of no-power, I might choose a context of the opposite – power – in order to listen to what’s so but then provide him with grounded support that would move him powerfully into action. My response to him, might then be, “Listen, Mark. I know that you feel you were wrongfully accused and it sounds to me like you just want this to go away. But, the fact of the matter is that it’s not going to go away on its on. You must accept that this is what is happening now. Fortunately, I know you to be a powerful person. And because of your strength and power, you have the ability to face this situation head-on and take the action that is necessary for you to take in order to prevent it from causing further harm.”
When we get stuck, we don’t need friends around us who are going to sympathize with our “stuckness!” We need friends who will help us pull our heads out of the sand to see what’s really there and to motivate us to be all that we can be in the situation.
I challenge you this week to give up listening to other as their cares and concerns. And instead, listen to others as you know them to be.