There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak. –Simon Sinek
Good morning, Gentle Reader.
For me, two of Greenleaf’s most stimulating and challenging questions are these two: Why is there so little listening? In saying what I have in mind will I really improve on the silence?
In order to respond to Greenleaf’s first question we need to define ‘listening.’ My dictionary defines ‘Listen’ with these words: To pay attention. Well, this is somewhat helpful. Greenleaf helps me when he says that the servant listens first and listens in order to seek to understand. For me, this is significantly more helpful. In order to find common ground, I invite you, Gentle Reader, to hold with me Greenleaf’s guideline: servants listen first and in listening first they listen in order to seek to understand.
Now given this context it makes sense that Greenleaf would offer us this question: Why is there so little listening? I go to this place when I am full of internal noise. I go to this place when I am full of ‘surety’ – If I am sure then why would I want to listen to you? I go to this place when I am rooted in negative judgement about the speaker(s) – when my prejudices, stereotypes, beliefs take over. I go to this place when I find myself being disturbed by what I am hearing. How about you, Gentle Reader, when do you go to this place?
On the other hand, Greenleaf, again as is his wont, ups the ante with his second question: In saying what I have in mind will I really improve on the silence?’ I know that I am not improving on the silence when the eyes of the other(s) glaze over as I speak. I know that I am not improving on the silence when the other looks away – looking at one’s watch is a sure sign that I am not improving on the silence. I know that I am not improving on the silence when the other’s response has nothing to do with what I am talking about (this actually happened to me this morning during a ‘conversation’ I was having with a regular at my favorite coffee shop). Gentle Reader, when have you found that your speaking did not improve on the silence?
Finally, I find that when I speak without being rooted in integrity that I have not improved on the silence. I am thinking of Don Miguel Ruiz’s counsel:
Speak with integrity!