BLOCKS TO LISTENING

OUR BLOCKS TO LISTENING

Why don't we listen well? For all sorts of reasons, most of them unconscious. See if any of these blocks sound familiar to you (below we list Remedies for these Blocks):

  • No one is listening to us, so we won't listen to them.
  • We're afraid we might not be 100% right.
  • We are afraid we might invite this other person closer to us if we listen; we either don't know how to create good boundaries or we are afraid of intimacy, of being hurt.
  • We can't focus our minds long enough to listen.
  • We think we don't have enough time to listen.
  • We're too angry to listen.
  • We think we already listen. We don't understand why others get frustrated when talking to us.
  • We don't know how to help someone when they tell us a problem.
  • We don't like the other person, find them annoying, nagging, boring.
  • We are afraid if we listen we might imply we agree with what the other person is saying.
  • We don't know how to really listen. We want to listen, but never learned how; we copied what our parents and others did, just like we learned to speak.

Remedies to each of these blocks to listening:

  • We haven't been heard ourselves. We refuse to listen when others won't listen to us.  
  • When we listen to someone else, we are modeling the behavior we want others to treat us with. Learn to listen first. The other person will feel the change that happens when you listen, and will be more willing to listen to you once you have. You get to be the person who leads the way to positive change.
  • We're afraid we might not be 100% right.

Guess what? You never are! Each person brings his and her own perspective to any situation, each person stands in a different spot and sees the scene differently. Like the blind men and the elephant, one touching the tusk and saying an elephant is a hard animal, another touching the tail and saying he is a bristly animal, and then arguing who is right. We each have a valid opinion based on viewpoint, history, beliefs, and situation. All the strife in the world is caused by people trying to force their limited perspectives down each other's throats. We need to see that we only have one piece of the truth and open enough to listen to another person's piece of the truth. You can begin opening to the wide world of ideas and become wiser in the process by learning to listen.

We are afraid we might invite this other person closer to us if we listen; we either don't know how to create good boundaries or we are afraid of intimacy, of being hurt.

If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.
— Winnie the Pooh

Good listening does indeed create intimacy. But by its very nature, it also creates boundaries. When we really listen, we step back and see the other person as separate from us, from our needs and wants, and responsible for living their own lives as they chose. Intimacy is not being smothered, it is truly seeing and understanding the truth and beauty of another person. "Into-me-see."

We can't focus our minds long enough to listen.

One of the primary skills of listening is to be present in the moment. Our modern day culture has fractured our attention. Deciding to listen to another person can actually be an opportunity to step away from the chaos of the world and do one thing with one's whole heart and mind, the most important act in the world-listen. Really listening requires that we calm ourselves and become present to the separate reality of another person, a sort of "social meditation. " Not only does speaker get calmer, but we, the listener do, too. In the videos I will soon have available for free you will learn a quick technique for becoming present.

We think we don't have enough time to listen.

Ever have a conflict that went on forever, an issue between you and a spouse or co-worker that just wouldn't get resolved? These are sure signs that one or both of your were not really listening to one another. Conflict, misunderstanding, anger, and confusion take up a lot of our time, wasting the precious moments of our lives. Taking the time to really listen is actually a time saver, like having the oil changed in the car.

When someone says they need to talk, that is a cue to take a breath and hunker down into deep listening.

We're too angry to listen.

It's true; it is difficult if not impossible to listen when we are angry. The circuits in our brains just can't take in anymore, flooded like a car given too much gas when it is stalled, we need to take time to cool down before we can listen (or talk, for that matter). However, when we are calmer, if we make it a point to listen, we can dissipate another's anger at us. When we are listened to when we are angry, our anger diminishes, like letting the air out of a balloon, all our hot air just goes whooshing out with a big sigh of relief, or sometimes a good cry.

We think we already listen well enough. We don't understand why others get frustrated when talking to us.

Did you ever notice that whenever we have a problem, we're there? If the majority of your conversations with people go nowhere, if you find everyone boring, if you have the same argument over and over, if you keep having people mad at you at work or home, if you can't seem to find and keep a happy partner, the problem just might be your poor listening skills. But you are in good company: only 2% of all Americans (I have no statistics on other countries) have ever learned to really listen. We learn our listening skills from our parents; how well did your parents listen to you as a kid, to each other? (Maybe they need a deck of Listening Cards…) Luckily, you are here finding a solution.

We don't know how to help someone when they tell us a problem.

When we use good listening skills, we relieve ourselves of having to fix someone else's problem. Instead, we first believe that each person is the wisest person he or she knows, but might temporarily have lost touch with this wisdom because of overwhelm, depression, anger, or poor self-esteem. When we really listen we return people to their own wisdom, not tell them ours, through reflecting back, allowing silence, and asking helpful questions so they can see their own road (not the road we think they should or could take).

We don't like the other person, find them annoying, nagging, boring.

Often the reason why people keep repeating the same things over and over again is because no one has really listened to them before. The way to get the needle past stuck is often to listen, to actually take the time to sit down with someone and find out, in depth, what it is they are really saying. Boring people often become more interesting when someone is interested in them. Annoying and nagging people stop having something to nag about, because they have been heard, usually their need in the first place. Oh, then you might also have to heed or deal what they are saying…

We are afraid if we listen we might imply we agree with what the other person is saying.

One of the fathers of democracy, Socrates, said that citizens of a democracy must learn to listen to one another in order to come to the highest possible ideals and decisions for the common good. He designed a process called the "dialectic" whereby one person says her idea, or thesis, the other says his idea, or anti-thesis, then they listen and hone their ideas to come up with a third and better composite of the best of their ideas, or synthesis. He said all citizens would benefit from this sort of deliberation. Imagine if our politicians engaged in the dialectic rather than a debate! Imagine if we listened to what someone said and heard the merit in it, rather than seek to annihilate it. We might just learn something new. When we listen openly to another, they will often listen to us. It is also possible to agree to disagree. Most of the time, we find we are in "heated agreement" when we really listen to what the other person is saying.

We don't know how to really listen.

We want to listen, but never learned how; we copied what our parents and others did, just like we learned to speak. We are often full of reactions, corrections, recollections, and directions, and do not know how to quiet these long enough to give the service we wish to give to another person, the loving attention we know would do so much good in our relationships. Here is a beginning, a way to clear your head, learn the skills, unlearn the old habits, and begin being the calm witness to other people you wish to be.