Monday, June 7, 2010

Listening to Each Other

Sometimes I think that the most radical, the most revolutionary thing that we can do, is to listen to people. We are at a point where people are being bombarded with folks telling them what they should think, what they should believe, and what they should do. If I go to people and tell them that they should be living simply and sustainably, I am just one more competing voice.

How much more radical it is to go to people and ask them what they think. And then listen to them.

I wrote in my last post about the need for compassion, even for conservative people. I also wrote about the need to understand them. But we need to try to understand everyone. I'm sure that I will write in a future post about Stephen Covey's 'Habit' "Seek First to Understand", but the principle is clear.

Margaret Wheatley, in her book turning to one another (which I also intend to write a post on at some point), lays out her principles of conversation--which I think are good points to remember as we listen to people:

  • we acknowledge each other as equals
  • we try to stay curious about each other
  • we recognize that we need each other's help to become better listeners
  • we slow down so we have time to think and reflect
  • we remember that conversation is the natural way that humans think together
  • we expect it to be messy at times

These are great principles to have both people in a conversation adopt, but even if the other person isn't ready or able to do this, I think that one person willing to listen and adopt these principles, will move change forward. It's worth trying anyway.

I believe that each person has worth--and so it is worth listening to each person. And I believe that sometimes someone may change, just because they were listened to.

Often, being listened to allows a person to think for themselves--thinking that they may not have been able to do when everyone is telling them what to think. Being supported in thinking things through may result in deeper and more profound changes than would happen if they simply changed as a result of you telling them to. And, who knows, the result may be a better one (for that person at least) than what you might tell them to do.

And, above all, even if they don't change, you will learn something. And that may help you change.

This means having faith in people. It means believing in people. And, above all, it means listening to people.

Imagine a world where we really listened to each other.

Quote of the Day: "When I'm in conversation, I try to maintain curiousity by reminding myself that everyone here has something to teach me. When they're saying things that I disagree with, or have never thought about, or that I consider foolish or wrong, I silently remind myself that they have something to teach me. Somehow this little reminder helps me to be more attentive and less judgemental. It helps me stay open to people, rather than shut them out." - Margaret Wheatley


Turil said...

Indeed listening with real interest and heart is a skill that's highly valuable, and unfortunately, somewhat rare, especially with many of us who grew up in the last half of the twentieth century where parents (of all kinds) were so obsessed with progress that they missed out on really spending any meaningful time listening to their kids, and so we tended to grow up lacking good role models for listening. For me, I grew up with books and television (and my dad, occasionally) monologuing at me, so that was my model for communication. And now I monologue too, and have a hard time listening to anyone else who doesn't monologue. (And if their monologue isn't compelling enough to me, I'll interrupt and start monologuing myself again!)

It would be a good thing for me to hang around some good listeners, so I can maybe learn how to do it.

MoonRaven said...

You are so on target about this--I think most of us really need to learn to listen, and most of us really didn't get good listening models. I know I write columns about listening because it's something that I need to learn how to do better.

Thanks for your comment.