Thursday, August 26, 2010

What have you learned recently

that has changed the way you live?

This was the latest question on this site

I learned that my relationship with everyone around me is suffering because none of us (including myself) truly listens. What essentially brought this to my attention was pre-cana. I remember hearing all the things Paul had to say, but not until that day did I realize, often times I rarely listen. It's like that saying my 2nd grade teacher used to have us cut out of stenciled letters on colored construction paper and staple above the blackboard "To listen is to hear but to hear is not to listen" or something close to that.

We went home from pre-cana with a new perspective of each other and continued to do the workbook. Paul came across a letter to a spouse about listening. We both found it to be really thought provoking. I won't get into that now. Maybe I'll publish it soon and share it with you. It's seriously genius.

After all this listening and communication talk I realized that much of the time, when I listen to you, my friends, my family & Paul, I am barely listening. I hear all the words you have to offer, but I don't digest them. I don't let them resonate within my mind. I don't attempt to feel what you are feeling. Instead, I am comparing: comparing experiences I've gone through in an effort to relate, comparing my thoughts with yours, comparing my feelings with yours. Instead, I'm judging: not understanding why you do or feel what you do. Instead, I talk: if not aloud, in my own mind about what I think of what you said and what my response should be.

What I should be doing is listening to you with my whole self. I should be hearing your words with all of me and in doing so, truly listen. I don't need to give advice, I don't need to chime in, I don't need to judge, and I don't need to compare. What I need to do is simply listen and attempt to understand.

I'm sure we all do this, we all do it all the time. We are human and our minds our complex. Our minds jump from thought to though in nano seconds in a way that's far beyond controllable.

So how has this knowledge changed my life? I catch myself. I catch myself day dreaming as I pretend to listen to things I'm not nearly interested enough in. I catch myself thinking of what to say when you are speaking. I catch myself wondering random thoughts that have nothing to do with the conversation. I catch myself thinking of the long list of things I still need to do while you are trying to connect with me. I also catch others doing these things to me. I catch myself being heard but not acknowledged. I catch myself being heard but not listened to. I catch myself speaking too much and too often, being long winded and not to the point. I catch myself losing the audience that I hope will understand me. I catch them picking up their phones or blackberries. I catch them looking beyond me at something far more interesting. I catch us all not listening.

So I try to focus. I try to hear and to listen. I try to be heard and to be listened to. I try to talk in a manner that helps my partner and my friends listen to what I have to say rather than just hear it. And I try to listen to them. When my mind begins to wander, I reel it back in and try my best to focus. To focus on their words and those words meanings. I don't try to hear what's behind those words, or the double meanings that could exist, I just simply try and hear them for what they are because that is simply what that person is trying to tell me... no more, no less. And if they are trying to convey more through some other short of complicated game, it is not up to me to decipher. I will try not to do that to others either. I never agreed to play, I never read the directions or knew the rules, therefore, those things will be lost on me. Instead that is their need to learn to communicate, not my inability to listen.

So yes, that has changed my life and I'm hoping that I continue to work on my listening... true listening in the future.

Some tips on effective listening can be found here
as well as other relationship communication guides

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