How big are your ears?
I don’t mean are the lobes oversized, or is the general scale of your listening instruments out of proportion to your face.
I mean what do you hear?
Do you hear some of the words spoken to you? Do you hear all of the words? Do you hear the meaning underneath the words? Do you make sense of the meaning you hear? Do you hear the tone, pitch, pace of the speaker? Do you hear the expression, the phrasing? Do you detect the strength or fragility in their voice? Do you hear the colour of their face? Do you hear the eye movements that accompany the sentences? Do you hear the angle of their head? Do you hear their physiology – their arm and leg movements, their shoulders, hands, fingers? Do you hear their breathing? Do you hear their heartbeat?
“I might have told you this before…”
I say that quite often. Or something similar. Usually I’m about to tell a story. A story that makes a point, or enhances a previously made point. Or maybe it’s a story to support or refute the point you just made.
I know the story. I’ve said it before. I just can’t recall whether I told you. Or someone else. Or if it’s just a story I tell myself. One of those ‘in head practice’ stories. Or, one of those conversations where only I’m present. Me talking to me.
Usually I go ahead anyway. Mostly people are polite. Sometimes they say, “I know, you’ve said before.”
I’ve been on the receiving end too. Someone tells me a story. One they’ve told me before. Maybe twice before. Or five times. They tell it with gusto. Like it’s new. Sometimes the context is different. Mostly it’s not.
It’s as if we like our stories. Like a good book, we’re happy to read them several times. The story is what matters. The person we’re telling, not so much. The context and relevance, not so much. If those things mattered equally, we might remember. But no. The story comes out again. The story is what matters. It’s as if actually we’re telling ourselves. We telling and listening. The other person is incidental in this transaction.
What about our life story? Is that a story we tell ourselves? Over and over? Is that a story we share with others? Over and over?
Is that a good book?
Being listened to, has amazing properties.
When we need to be heard, and someone makes time, it feels like a gift. The gift of attention. It makes us feel special. Helps us make sense of our own thinking. Connects us to our own feelings. It’s cathartic. Warming. Connecting. It sets us on an even keel again. Able to move forward once more.
Being listened to, however, requires a listener.
Often a good one. One who listens. One who hears. Little, if any, interruption.
All too often though as the potential listener, we don’t pay attention to this gift giving capability. We are too busy. In our own world. We move on, neglecting. Not because we don’t care, but often because we just don’t value sufficiently the benefit of listening to another person. We are captured by our own selfish need. Our priorities. Our world, in that moment, is worth more than the world of the listened to. So we interject, we opinion give, or we don’t even see that the listened to seeks to be listened to.
We should stand regularly in the listened to space and remember its gifts.
From there, step across. Stand more frequently in the listener space. Give gifts back. Gifts to others. To those who need to be listened to.
I posted on here a while back that we all want to be seen and heard.
Truly seen and heard.
So, if someone was there for you, what would you say?
If you could be heard, what would you say?
What is your truth?
What is your story?
What hasn’t been said?
What needs to be heard?
How did your story come to be?
Where does your story begin?
Where are you now in your story?
How does your story end?
What does your story say about you?
People are listening, you just need to speak your story.
Nancy Kline’s book ‘Time to Think’ advocates a model of human interaction that honours the individual’s time to think.
In our society we are expected to have an opinion, and to voice that opinion. To disagree or to agree with your perspective. Our language, our organisational culture, our very democracy is imbued with debate, dialogue, challenge. The great debates are forefront in the news and on social media… The USA right to guns or not? Is removing tax credits unethical? Can the Labour party survive its leadership choice? Will Jose get the sack at Chelsea? We are encouraged to debate them, to have a perspective, even to take a side.
At a coaching supervision group discussion today we were talking about silence. One coach spoke of the sheer joy of not having to hold a view in their coaching work. The freedom and release that gave them. As a coach we can be objective. Focus merely on the client’s story, their way of being. We don’t need a view as to the rights and wrongs of that. We don’t need a view as to the way forward, the solution for the client.
We can just be present. Listen at the deepest level. Give them time to think.
Nancy asks “what makes you think the question you are about to ask is more valuable than the client’s next thought?”
I wonder if in organisations, in society, in life we need to learn to be silent more. To honour other people’s time to think and to speak their truth. To not hold a view, but just to accept what is true for them. To intervene solely with the purpose of helping them to develop their thinking. Not for our understanding, not to share our opinion, not to demonstrate our value giving contribution of solution … but just to help them to develop their thinking.
Maybe there would be more understanding, more compassion, more truth?