We listen for what we already know (for confirmation). We agree with what fits and disregard everything else (we usually allow two minutes for explanations before we decide if the information supports/fits with what we already know. We approach situations like this:
“I already know what sort of person I am, and I know what sort of person you are and what sort of people are on my team, and I know about this project, this field, this economy, this world – now, what is it you have to say?”
We use language to label things that are already there, to minimize risks and to maintain conformity.
We don’t listen for what is actually happening, for what someone is saying, or for what is possible; we hear selectively (and pretend we are not being influenced by what is already in our minds).
To change, actively catch yourself listening this way. This gives us the freedom to think in new ways, to hear what is actually being said. Then we have the power to see, to generate and to fulfill new possibilities.
Here’s an admission of my automatic listening: One of my relatives is a polar opposite on attitudes toward our responsibilities toward others. Since studying the wonderful article cited below, I can now identify the point at which I mute her in my mind. On a good day, I force myself to listen a few seconds longer, not because I expect to learn or teach her anything, but to build a bridge from my world to hers. It is still such a fragile bridge that I rarely have the courage to step onto it, but that may change as I continue to confront my own automatic listening habits.
Could this process of changing our way of listening eventually build bridges between races, religions, political parties, nations…? The authors of this article believe it can. I say it’s worth trying.
[Paraphrased from New Listening: Key to Organizational Transformation by Barbara J. Fittipaldi, published in “When the Canary Stops Singing; Women’s Perspective on Transforming Business” Found at library_new_listening.html