• Tony de Lacey

How To Listen

"People talking without speaking, people hearing without listening" - Simon and Garfunkel

What do we do, most of the time? Do we talk or do we listen? Do we give out more than we let in or do we do the opposite? Hopefully your answer is the latter. Listening is one of the most important skills we have in the world. It is the most important skill when it comes to improving intelligence, general life skills and the ability to talk better. When we were young we first learnt to listen before we could talk. Yet as we get older it seems that we do a lot more talking and a lot less listening. The result of this? We decide to do things without intelligence. We decide that we know enough to make decisions. We decide that we are done exploring. How wrong we are.

When you talk, you aren't listening so when you talk you better know what you're talking about. Often, however, we don't. We only know what we have come across that fits into our narrow perceptions of the world. It is impossible to know everything there is to know about everything. Our brains cannot comprehend it. That's why when we see a car, for example, we don't see the complicated parts of the engine, nor the little fiddly parts of the steering mechanism. When we see a car we see an object that takes us from A to B. The only time when we know more than that is when the object goes wrong. So when you talk about a car you only talk about what you see rather than what it is. This is the same when it comes to all objects and even people to a great extent. You only see what you need to see and no more. This means that you have a big reason to be humble in your speech and an even bigger reason to place greater value on listening instead.

If you do not listen then you risk becoming ignorant, arrogant, mis-understood and deceptive in your speech. There is no utility in that. The human race is based on the ability to listen especially listening to people talk. This is how information, technology, enlightenment and other great qualities of our existence start. If you do not listen, or you don't listen properly then you risk only taking small bits of information out and misrepresent them in your own lives. Consider someone giving a talk about how to have a good relationship. They mention, in passing, that generally you should aim to do what makes you happy. Though they go on to say that realtionships are, however, ongoing negotiations between two people you only take the 'do what makes you happy' part out and ommit the relevant other bit which counteracts the totality of the 'do what makes you happy' phrase. You then practice the phrase and start rejecting people who don't make you happy. Rather than listening you only took out a small part of what was said because it added to your own pathology (artificial view of the world) and you felt vindicated enough to do what you always wanted to do. That is hearing without listening.

Listening is incredibly important and it is difficult. In order to listen you must first open the door to your own vulnerability. You cannot listen properly from behind your walls. The door must be open in order to allow new things in, even if those new things are diometrically opposed to what's within your walls. If you cannot do that then you will not listen. You might as well close your doors and forget even trying. Enlightenment and the truth wil exist outside whilst you enjoy your flawed and isolated existence within. Open the doors and be prepared to let something in. This requires you to listen as if someone might know something that you don't. If they do then prepare to rearange and add new furniture and most importantly prepare to throw some furniture away. Listen with the openess for your flawed order in your life to be rearanged or perhaps even thrown a bit into chaos. But it is better, is it not, for flawed order to be replaced by chaos if that brings you closer to an even more stable and strong new order in your life?

Listening to someone is different to analysing someone. This is where, for example, men and women are at loggerheads especially when it comes to talking about a problem. Men will listen to a problem and tend to try to find a solution to it right away. This causes annoyance for women who do not want to find a solution right away. This is because when women talk and indeed listen they will instead try to flesh out the whole problem, articulate it again and again in order to make more sense of the problem before a solution can be attempted. If you listen to someone and formulate a solution at the same time you are not listening, you are analysing. You aren't giving the person the space they need to speak. Sorry guys, women have got this right. That's why women are better at listening, in general. If you want to listen to someone, let them speak. In fact, let them speak for as long as they want. It is better and often in doing so the real crux of the problem, if that's what the talking is about, will actually surface. If it surfaces then you know what you really need to sort out; so you treat the cause and not the symptom.

When you listen you pay attention. You pay attention to people not only in their words but their actions and their behaviours. If you do not pay attention you risk overlooking things which would otherwise be important. In that light you should probably listen to yourself. What are you overlooking? Why? Are you overlooking things because you are pursuing something which would otherwise be hampered if you paid greater attention? Do you really like someone but you don't pay attention to things you should be worried about in their behaviours in order to carry on liking them? Pay attention to your own behaviours so you can pay attention to others. If you can listen to yourself then you can see with greater honesty what you are doing wrong, and thus what others are also doing wrong. Listening is a way of unplugging from the Matrix that is the vulnerabilities of human existence; our capacity to be flawed individuals who only let in a small amount of light. Listening and paying attention to things will lead to the discovery of phenomena, derived from the Latin; Phanesthai, which means things shine forth. Rather than what is meaningful that shines forth as most real (for example fearing heights means heights are scary) what is most real shines as most meaningful (it's just a cliff, dummy). It is better to see what is real rather than what you believe is real.

Listen to yourself, listen to others and listen to the world around you. Pay attention because it will help avoid unnecessary suffering. Pay attention to what you are overlooking, what you are not seeing. Pay attention to other people so you can avoid bad people and gravitate towards good people. Give up on your own pathology, stop isolating yourself and start listening and talking to people with the same courtesy. You will be a better individual if you can start listening more than talking. You will learn more and so your speech will be more precise and more honest. Surely the opposite is worse? So why not pursue the better approach? Listen and be better for the experience.


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