Do you ever wonder why you enjoy talking to some people more than others? Most of us assume the quality of the talking is the determining factor. Consider that it is the quality of the listening. Who you are to the listener actually determines what is possible between the two of you in any given interaction.
Landmark Education teaches many valuable distinctions, and one of my favorites is called – Already Always Listening. Here is how Landmark defines this on their website:
“Already Always Listening™
In the Already Always Listening segment, we visit the notion that while we think of ourselves as open-minded and objective, in fact, our approach to ourselves, our circumstances, and others are often filtered and even obscured by pre-existing notions and ideas – by our upbringing, our values, our past experiences.”
We all have a preset listening to every subject and person we know based on past reference. We are never listening to anyone.
Thanks to my weekends spent in Landmark courses, I can sense people’s listening of me immediately. I get dizzy when someone “listening” is stuck in their head due to fear or their own noisy, inner monologue. I get quiet when someone is “listening” to me through an old filter because it’s a waste of energy to keep talking. Spending time with people who hear me as the woman I have worked hard to be today allows me to grow. Clear listening is powerful; we expand in its presence.
Having lived in the same place for forty-four years with a peaks and valleys history makes for a lot of old listening. Being held hostage in a past story is painful; I feel invisible. Old friends and family have long-running narratives on each other. This can be a good or bad thing depending on the consciousness of the person and your track record. The way we are listened to can move us forward or can keep us stuck. When we feel misunderstood, we often lose our will to communicate and connect. This is a red flag that we are in the wrong environment.
Other times the glitch in the listening can be subtler. I have one old friend who can listen well as long as any of her unresolved issues don’t get triggered. She occurs to me like a field of landmines; specific topics can blow the conversation sky high in seconds.
We all have booby traps set up, it’s hard to ever shed our shit and step over into someone else’s world for an hour. When I meet someone with that ability, I am in awe. Grab hold tightly if you know anyone with this capacity.
We often create stories before meeting someone that impact our listening so that person never has a shot at being seen. We Google whatever we can dig up and if possible ask mutual friends for feedback. No one is a blank slate in this data-rich world. We all love to use identifying labels to flesh out narratives. For example, if I know someone is a psychologist, I may be more explicit in my sharing and open to receiving advice from him/her vs. my taxi driver. And after forty-four years in the back of cabs and NYC shrinks offices, I have had more spiritual moments in back of taxis.
We can also ask people to listen to us differently; like running an update on our computer software. This takes courage and an open mind on both sides but can be done. I have worked on salvaging a few old relationships. My mother and I have an entirely different relationship at age 44 and 75 due to updating our listening of each other. It’s unfair to count anyone out before you step up and create that conversation.
When someone is listening to me from an open space, their listening allows me to be great. It creates my best ideas and fills me with energy. I feel connected and grateful to that person for bringing out the best in me because I can’t do it alone.
Next conversation, focus on the listening instead of the talking.