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Human beings will be happier - not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That's my utopia.
~Kurt Vonnegut
Thursday, May 05, 2005

Talk is cheap and listening is rare

Listening to ourselves, presence, living in the moment, possessing each moment as it occurs, fully absorbing through sensory input, gathering as it flows but not completely stopping to process it, are all exercises in non-judgmental attentiveness. While my intentions in writing these listening posts lean more toward an inner meditative form of listening, an inner presence if you will, I understand that people are expecting to find skills related to better listening and understanding others. Dave Pollard recently wrote about Sympathy, Compassion, Humility, all elements of empathy which for assorted reasons we seem to be lacking in. I think we have lost the skills and incentives to be empathetic.

If we aren't listening to ourselves we cannot possibly be in tune with our feelings, and cannot be empathetic. In turn, sympathy, compassion and humility are lost. In fact, I tend to think that the focus on self-responsibility has become a twisted form of self-absorbtion which manifests selfishly and materially. Regard for others is one of those undesirable 'bleeding heart liberal' traits. A term that has been crafted to make us cringe.

To further this thought, University of Maine researcher, Dr. Marisue Pickering, identifies four characteristics of empathetic listeners:

l. Desire to be other-directed, rather than to project one's own
feelings and ideas onto the other.

2. Desire to be non-defensive, rather than to protect the self.
When the self is being protected, it is difficult to focus on
another person.

3. Desire to imagine the roles, perspectives, or experiences of the
other, rather than assuming they are the same as one's own.

4. Desire to listen as a receiver, not as a critic, and desire to
understand the other person rather than to achieve either agreement
from or change in that person.

Hmmm...if you'd like to know more, she identifies ten discrete skills for empathetic listening and delves further into exercises designed to help develop true active listening. I have to wonder what our relationships would be like if the emphasis were on 'listening to ourselves and others' opposed to self-responsibility.

    Our society places much more attention on
    the spoken side of the communication equation, but if you think
    about who influences you, are they good talkers or good listeners?

    As we come to understand ourselves and our relationships with
    others better, we rediscover that "communication is not just saying
    words; it is creating true understanding." Active listening is an
    important skill in that process.

posted by Cyndy | link | | |


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