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“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” Friedrich Nietzsche
How often have we judged other person, circumstance, event, place, object etc. as being “off” (read: negatively different, difficult, stupid, weird, wrong and the like) because their behavior, or just their (or its mere existence) didn’t conform to the way we felt it ought to conform?
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” How often are we tone deaf in that we refuse to gather sufficient information/data to possibly help us more fully understand the truth of the reality around us? The fact is there is never – ever – only one, correct perspective about anything.
Our pain and suffering
Understanding this truth supports us to let go of our tendency or obsession to judge, to be critical, to categorize and label people, places, circumstances and events as “good” or “bad,” “right” or “wrong.” Most folks’ pain and suffering arises because they refuse to let go of their need to definitively judge reality – not only their reality but everyone else’s reality as well.
The truth is folks suffer least when they can accept reality just as it is – without needing to control or manipulate it.
“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.” Marcus Aurelius
How often in your daily life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship – do you find yourself in a situation where there�s a conflict, or challenge or problem to be tackled and resolved? Or a dilemma that needs to be unbundled, or a conundrum to be clarified, or a story to be heard? And, how often in such circumstances do you dive in with your perspective (read: “my perspective which happens to be the only accurate perspective”)? How often do you arrive to save the day?
In reality, how often have you jumped in with both feet and your single perspective only to learn sooner rather than later you missed the mark – i.e., you didn’t grasp the whole story, or the complete picture, or a deeper understanding of the issue?
Sign of the times
What’s really underneath our knee-jerk need to jump in is our brain is so accustomed (addicted?) – in a culture of 24-hour sound bites, 140-character Tweets, Instagram, Snapchat, and incessant demands made on our psyche by social media – to shoot from the hip, offer opinions and judgments on the fly, and, in the process, become wrapped up in my “what-I-feel-is-the correct-perspective” – i.e., viewing our preconceptions, assumptions, “stories,” expectations and judgments as Truth.
“Listen to understand before being understood” is a principle underscored in all “effective listening” literature. Most of us say we “listen.” But, how often do we really, really listen before being understood, before reacting? Honestly?
In our media-obsessed culture, many of us (i.e., our brains) have become addicted to a need for constant and continuous stimulation and interaction; our brains demand (hyper) activity. So, rather than having cultivated a capacity to exhibit patience and really, really listen, our stimulation-needy brains force us to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, i.e., our perspective – a perspective that is, more often than not, quick, simple – and wrong. Being reactive rather than responsive.
The consequence of the “I have the one, quick and correct perspective” is it usually ameliorates one’s capacity to listen, be empathic, quiet and contemplative in a sustained way in the presence of another or others – especially when the situation calls for deeper reflection and understanding.
Unfortunately, when listening is called for, many of us engage in our knee-jerk reactivity in some way, shape or form – advising, “fixing,” one-upping, educating, telling, training, hijacking the other’s experience, correcting, and, of course, suggesting an immediate solution, i.e., my perspective.
Unfortunately, when this happens, those across from us often feel unheard, unappreciated, invisible, angry, resentful, frustrated or attacked – anything but listened to or heard. Not a great way to build trust, engender mutual respect, create a container of safety or cultivate conscious, healthy and safe relationships.
So, the next time you’re in a situation that calls for listening, perhaps don’t be so quick to reassure, give advice, or give your perspective. Rather, practice being present to the person(s) who are speaking, practice empathy to understand the other(s) more completely, breathe deeply, clear your mind and let go of all preconceived judgments and assumptions, listen with your whole being, not just your ears, to others’ feelings and needs.
In other words, in situations that call for listening, be sure you’re not one “who considers those who are dancing to be insane” because you could not hear the music.
Listen for the music.
Some questions for self-reflection:
- Do you feel you’re a good listener? How do you know? What would your co-workers, bosses, friends, spouse, partner or family members say?
- Have you recently been told you’re not a good listener? What was it like to hear that?
- Are you preoccupied with, or addicted to, electronic devices? Truthfully?
- Would folks say you’re often the first to jump in with a suggestion, a solution, an answer, your “perspective” – even when no one may not be asking for it?
- Do you have a reputation as one who’s always “fixing” others without their asking?
- Do you ever feel unheard, unseen, invisible when speaking with others?
- Do you ever hijack or “one-up” others’ experiences?
- Would you consider yourself to be a compassionate and empathic person? How so?
- Do you ever ask others if they feel you understood them, before you claim you did understand them?
- What one or two ways this week or next can you “listen to understand before being understood?”
- Do you feel you were “seen” and “heard” as a child?
(c) 2016, Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. and True North Partnering. All rights in all media reserved.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this reading with you and I hope you find it insightful and useful. Perhaps you’ll share this with others, post it on a bulletin board, and use it to generate rich and rewarding discussion.
What is the one thing that is keeping you from feeling successful, happy, confident, in control or at peace as you live your life – at work, at home, at play or in relationship? Maybe you know what that “thing” is…maybe you don’t. You just have a feeling that something has to change, whether or not you embrace that change. And how would that change support you to show up as a “better you?”
I’m available to guide you to create relationships that reflect honesty, integrity, authenticity, trust, and respect whether at work or outside of work. I support you to focus on the interpersonal skills that enable you to relate to others with a high level of personal and professional satisfaction – unhampered by personal inconsistencies, beliefs, “stories,” and behaviors that create barriers to a harmonious, pleasant, conscious, compatible, healthy and productive relationship.
I coach by phone, Skype and in person. For more information, 770-804-9125, www.truenorthpartnering.com or pvajda(at)truenorthpartnering.com
You can also follow me on Twitter: @petergvajda.