Not Listening

"Most of my adult life I have not been listening fully. I only listened long enough to determine whether the speaker's ideas matched my own. If they didn't, I would stop listening, and my mind would race ahead to compose an argument against what I believed the speaker's idea or position to be."
--John Francis, environmentalist, and author of Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking. 17 Years of Silence

We all do this. All of us. And if you believe you don't, you're lying to yourself.[1]It's refreshing that Mr. Francis has both the perspicacity to notice and the ego strength to own up to this common, common habit. I'm guessing it has something to do with his predilection for silence.[2]

Today is the ultimate era of not listening. We're convinced we are right... and all those other mentally ill idiots are wrong. Convinced.

The closest we come to listening these days, it seems, is aping the behavior of a listener. Except that our brains are still actively composing a response argument.

In other words, not listening at all. But at least looking good while doing it.

Do we just have a permanent disease of not listening? Is it terminal? Is it a feature, not a bug, of the human condition? It really makes me wonder.

And it makes me wonder about my own words: What is the purpose of the words I write at Casual Kitchen and elsewhere, what good do they do? Are they valuable, or are they just a pixelated version of "not listening"? Would it be better just to shut up and just… listen?

[1] If you still believe you don't do this, perform this simple test: Take the single political position you believe in most strongly. Find someone who holds the opposite position, and ask him or her to articulate why they're right and your position is wrong. Observe yourself during this conversation. Yep... you do it.

[2] A gem from the Wikipedia page on John Francis: "On his birthday in 1973, Francis decided to stop speaking as a gift to his community, to not argue for one day and instead listen to what others had to say. He found this so valuable that he continued to be silent the next day. This continued and he ended up not speaking for 17 years, with the exception of a phone call to his mother after 10 years of silence."

You can help support the work I do here at Casual Kitchen by visiting Amazon via any link on this site. Amazon pays a small commission to me based on whatever purchase you make on that visit, and it's at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

And, if you are interested at all in cryptocurrencies, yet another way you can help support my work here is to use this link to open up your own cryptocurrency account at Coinbase. I will receive a small affiliate commission with each opened account. Once again, thank you for your support!

1 comment:

Marcia said...

One of my bosses taught me about active listening a long time ago. Listening to understand, followup questions - NOT trying to formulate a response or argument.

Sadly, I work in an office where everyone argues. They literally don't listen, posture, yell, and 3 hours later come tell me that they agreed with each other all along. As the "mediator" (for lack of a better definition of "program manager"), I say "duh!" and "stop DOING that!!"

Every. Single. Day. Every. Single. Meeting.