By: Steve Gainey, MA, LLP, ADS, CAADC, EAC Clinical Specialist –
I’d like you to imagine this scenario with me.
You get invited to a friend’s cookout at 4pm the next day. In preparation for the cookout, you start to think and plan on what you will bring.
You decide to bring your own lemonade because you like it very sour, more than most make it, and you like to drink it out of your tall glass, so you plan to bring that, too. Your friend will have real dishes to eat off and silverware. Well, it’s summer, and you prefer to eat outside on paper plates, using plastic utensils, so you put some in your bag. And you prefer lean ground beef, so you decide to pack that, too. You also prefer ground mustard. Additionally, you like the baked beans from your favorite grocery store, so you pick some up. And the list goes on…
You arrive with all your “stuff” – what YOU like and what YOU think is right for a cookout because, let’s just get it straight…you’re right.
This is often what is done when we have a conversation with someone (partner, spouse, family, friends, co-workers, supervisors, or strangers). We bring our point of view, our opinion; everything is about us.
We may tell ourselves to hear the other idea or the other point of view, but that tends to last a very short time.
A Buddhist teacher of mine once told me, “Most people listen, so they can respond.” In other words, “I’m waiting for the opportunity to cut in, so I can give my opinion.”
This happens in “normal” times, as well as with the issues of today – pandemic, masks, elections, workplace changes, etc. And it gets magnified.
Can we actively listen to someone even if they are coming from a very different space or idea?
I tell couples that I counsel this: Listening to someone is not saying, “I agree with everything you are saying.” It involves looking at their point of view and seeing where it makes sense to them – and some of it might make sense to you, too.
The dynamic at times is, “Whoever isn’t for me is against me.” “I’m either strong or weak.” “If you are right, then I’m wrong”. In any of these cases, you want to defend your position.
A woman who was like a Mother to me and died at age 98 used to say (in humor), “I would agree with you, but then we would both be wrong.”
So, at any time, but especially now, I encourage you to learn how to incorporate active listening into your daily conversations. Comment below to share how active listening works for you.
“Listening is an art that requires attention over talent, spirit over ego, others over self.” – Dean Jackson