The Art of Listening
By Ariel & Shya Kane
We teach courses all over the world and have discovered that whatever the culture, whatever the language, people often don’t really, truly listen. Listening is often perceived as a passive act. The two of us have discovered when “True Listening” is present, satisfying communication is sure to follow.
We are devoting this article to the art of True Listening. We figure if you discover those things that keep you from listening, you will simultaneously discover the things getting in your way in relationships, at work and in day-to-day interactions. If you learn the Art of Listening, you will become more effective, productive and satisfied in all aspects of your life.
True listening is not something we have been taught growing up in our families, amongst our friends or in school. True listening requires being in the moment. It also requires the letting go of your point of view, your thoughts and your agendas. True listening is an art.
Have you ever examined whether or not you are truly listening? Have you identified what inhibits your ability to actually hear what another is saying with the intention of seeing what they mean from their point of view? What we are talking about here is a self-education program. First you must have the desire to discover how you listen. If you are not interested, read no further. If you are, this is an opportunity for you to apply the technology of Instantaneous Transformation to your life.
The technology of Instantaneous Transformation is anthropological in nature. It is about noticing how you interact with your life from a non-judgmental point of view. It is not about trying to change or fix what you notice in this self-examination of your own behavior patterns. We have discovered if you just notice how you are relating to your life, that is enough to complete previously disturbing patterns of behavior.
The mere identification and recognition of the existence of the behavior pattern
completes it in the moment of its being noticed. Frequently there are no other
actions needed. This applies to the way in which you listen, or don’t listen, or
distract yourself from listening.
Pre-Occupation with a “Problem”
If you are pre-occupied with a thought or something you consider problematic, then you can’t listen because your mind can only hold one thing at a time, and if you are worrying about something, then you don’t hear what is being said to you.
The two of us were recently speaking on the telephone with a friend of ours, “Serela.” As we spoke, the conversation got more confusing and stilted while she kept talking faster to answer questions we hadn’t asked. Things became rushed, jumbled and frustrating. This was a strange phone call. We wondered what had happened that Serela, who just the day before was calm and centered, was now so distracted and jumpy. We asked some questions in an attempt to solve the puzzling turn of events.
Then we inquired if Serela was sure it was a good time to talk because she seemed rushed. She assured us there was nothing pressing in her schedule and that she had plenty of time to chat. We said she seemed pre-occupied and asked if something had happened in the last day to upset her. Serela got quiet for a moment and then told us that during the middle of the night, her ex-boyfriend had called. After telling her how mean she was, how much she had hurt him, and how sad he was because they had broken up, he had hung up on her.
All morning Serela had been talking with him, in her mind, telling him all the things she did not have a chance to say as she tried to convince herself that she was not really a mean person. When Serela spoke with us, it had been hard for her to really talk and listen because she was already involved in the ongoing conversation in her thoughts. When she simply saw the phone call from her ex had knocked her off balance, she was restored to herself.
Most of us are unaware that we are actually doing something other than listening. We haven’t realized we are pre-engaged or pre-occupied so we only partially hear what is being said, and that partial hearing is almost always inaccurate.
Have you ever noticed how some people say the same things to you over and over?
That is because you didn’t really hear them the first time.
Proving Yourself Right
At this point we have to talk about a principle of physics, which is also the second principle of transformation, which says “no two things can occupy the same space at the same time.” If your mind is already pre-occupied with what you are intending to say when you get your chance, there is no possibility that you can actually hear what is being said to you. And that is on the most basic level. If you are defending your point of view, your mind will manipulate what is being said so you can disagree with it or prove it to be wrong, and prove yourself or your point of view right.
Have you ever found yourself finding fault with a person’s use of words or a
particular word rather than allowing yourself to hear the essence of what he or
she is saying?
Usually, when we engage in conversation with someone, we are trying to prove that what we believe to be true is true. And so, when we listen to another, we are still holding on to our point of view or intended result.
The idea of letting go of working on, thinking about, or holding on to what you
want to say, allowing yourself to actually hear what another person is saying,
is so simple that it is difficult to understand. If you simply drop what you
have to say and listen, when you respond to the person you are relating to, you
might discover you have something wholly new and unexpected to say that is even
more appropriate than what you had planned. You will also find that if what you
had to say is still relevant, it will come back on its own.
How You Listen has been Culturally Influenced
The two of us were once on the Italian Riviera. One day, while walking down the street we saw a young girl three or four years old having a conversation with one of her parents. What impressed us most was how she expressed herself with her hands. The cultural way of gesturing is to wave one’s hands emphatically as an extension of the words. The girl demonstrated a small version of the gestures going on all around her. She did not think to learn this way of communicating — it was absorbed along with the culture.
You have also absorbed culturally-influenced ways of relating, including
winning, not being stupid, and being right. These ways of relating become
filters through which we listen. So listening then becomes more complex. It is
not simply an act of hearing what another has to say. Each communication goes
through a quick check to see how it might affect our agenda to get ahead, win or
Filling in the Blanks
Our minds are like computers and they can only operate with what they already know. So, for instance, if you hear a word you don’t already have in your mental data bank, you are likely to fill in the blank with one that your logic system assumes is the same or a reasonable facsimile. Here is an example of how it works. One of the towns near where we live in New Jersey is named “Flemington.” When we first moved to our home, we were unfamiliar with the area. Soon after we moved in, our friend and real estate broker, Nancy, was promoted to a managerial position in a new real estate office in Flemington — or so we thought.
For weeks we drove by her new location and scanned the parking lot, looking for
her car. It seemed as though she was never there. Finally we called her and said
“We tried to come by and see you today but you were out. Boy you must be busy,
we keep driving by and your car is never in the lot.” To this she replied, “What
do you mean, I was in all day today.” So we asked if she had a new car, but no,
that wasn’t the answer. It seems we had misheard when Nancy told us she had been
promoted. She didn’t actually work in Flemington at all. She managed the office
in “Pennington.” Having never heard of Pennington, our minds just filled in the
Listening with an Agenda
A major inhibitor to listening is one’s agendas. Wanting something when you talk with another person is not a problem, if you are aware of it. For instance, as a sales person, if you get paid a commission for what you sell, obviously you have a preference that potential customers will purchase something. However, if you push to meet your agenda rather than have attention on taking care of the customer’s needs, you are sure to turn people off and lose sales. In effect, going for your agenda produces the opposite result.
People are frequently much more interested in not appearing stupid than they are in actually listening. It’s as if it would be bad not to know something, and so this agenda blinds the listener. How it blinds the listener is that it doesn’t matter what another person is saying to them, above all else they can’t look stupid, so they constantly have to figure out what to say so they don’t appear stupid.
Again, please don’t misunderstand. There is nothing wrong with having an agenda. If you want a raise, a better relationship, or even just want to appear to be something other than stupid, no problem. The problem only arises when you are unaware of your own agendas and you are mechanically driven in your interactions with your life. If you are aware of things you want (or don’t want) then you can include these preferences and actively listen to what another has to say.
Ariel and Shya Kane are internationally-acclaimed authors, seminar leaders and
business consultants whose revolutionary technology, “Instantaneous
Transformation,” has helped thousands of individuals and companies worldwide.
The Kanes lead workshops dedicated to supporting people in living in the moment
and having extraordinary, fulfilling lives. Their books and audios are available
at local and online bookstores, via the Kanes’ website or by calling toll-free
(800) 431-1579. For more information, including dates and locations for upcoming
courses, please call (908) 479-6034 or visit:
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