Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. –Karl A. Menniger
Good morning Gentle Reader.
In 1990 I was having a conversation with three folks who knew Bob Greenleaf. They were sharing stories about him with me. During our time together they noted, several times, that Bob was an excellent listener. At times his listening was so intense that the speaker felt a bit uncomfortable for he/she had never been listened to so intensely.
In the late 60’s Bob and his wife, Esther, designed and facilitated a weekend experience in ‘Listening.’ In the 90’s I had the privilege of spending time with their design; sadly, I have not been able to obtain a copy for myself. As I recall, the weekend participants were mostly couples (in the 60’s they would be husband-wife couples).
Many years ago the following poem emerged into my consciousness;
The Metaphors we use,
The Words we infuse,
The Questions we muse,
The Paths that we choose. –Richard W. Smith
Consider that the Metaphors I have integrated – the ones that have become ‘second nature’ to me – determine not only the paths I will choose they will also determine ‘how’ I will listen to you.
For example, if I have integrated the Metaphor: ‘Life is a struggle!’ I will listen to you – and respond/react to you – in certain ways. If, on the other hand, I have integrated the Metaphor: ‘Life is a story to be written and shared!’ then I will listen to you – and respond/react to you – in other ways.
We can begin to identify the Metaphor(s) we have integrated by, over time, paying attention to and noting our ‘word choice’ and our ‘question choice.’ For example. A person who has integrated the Metaphor: ‘Life is war!’ will use many ‘war words’ and offer many questions that contain ‘war words.’
When I listen I listen by ‘hearing’ and interpreting your statements and questions via my ‘censors’ – my ‘Life-Metaphor(s),’ via my deep tacit assumptions, my core values, my prejudices, my stereotypes, my ‘world-view,’ etc. All of this ‘censoring’ takes place at a pre-conscious and sub-conscious level and happens in nanoseconds (or faster).
We can change ourselves by emerging, identifying, naming and changing the Metaphors we use that do not serve us – or the other(s) well. Now, of course, if my Metaphors get me what I want then I will have no motivation to change them. So, I also need to respond to these two questions: Do my ‘Life-Metaphors’ get me what I want? What do I want? We begin by reflecting upon and responding to the second question first.
Paradoxically, our ‘Life-Metaphors’ can be depleting; they can actually support ourselves doing violence to ourselves. They can also support the violence we do to the other(s) – some of this violence is unintended and some of it is intended.
Consider, Gentle Reader: In what ways do your ‘Life-Metaphors’ nurture your ‘self’ and the other(s) and in what ways do your ‘Life-Metaphors’ deplete – or do violence to – your ‘self’ and the other(s)?
Listening is being able to be changed by the other person. –Alan Alda