THE MORE I LISTEN
THE BETTER THEY HEAR ME
Listen to all the conversations of our world between nations as well as those between couples. They are, for the most part,
dialogue of the deaf
Paul Tournjer Swiss psychiatrist
Because you can hear doesn’t mean that you listen;
because you can talk doesn’t mean you can communicate.
Hearing is an accoustical phenomena that takes place in our ears
. Listening is always an inter-personal experience between people
. Talking is a sound we make with our mouth and vocal chords.
Communication is a dialogue between people.
How can I stress the importance of being a listener?
The most common complaint that patients have about their dentist and physician is the failure of the doctor to be a good listener. As a professional, many kinds of statistics come to my attention. Surveys have shown that 40 % of all malpractice suits in dentistry are traceable to a failure in communication during case presentation. Depersonalization of the health care professions is causing a lot of resentment and bitterness because of the fact no one seems to want to take the time to listen. The only reason I’m so pious is because I’m a professional listener.
People pay money to have me listen an try to understand what is going on in their life.
One morning, having breakfast in a hotel, I overheard a group of salesmen talking animatedly, with loud laughter, and telling one joke after another. Then I was struck by the phenomena that each person was excitedly waiting his turn to try to play one-
upmanship with the previous person’s joke. With all their talking and loud laughing
I also realized no one was really listening. It reminded me of Paul Simon’s song The Sound of Silence.
And in a naked night,
I saw ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking
people hearing without listening
people writing songs that voices never shared.
No one dared disturb the sound of silence.
Show me a good listener and I’ll show you a kind and warm person; a good mother, a good father and a good lover. Show me a good listener, and I’ll show you a real winner —someone who has the ability to make people feel that they are for real. If it is so important to be able to hear a person and not just words, why have we failed so miserably in the art of listening. How many of us has ever even taken a course in how to become a good listener? Maybe it should be added to our school curriculum, along with reading, writing and arithmetic.(Because it’s more important?)
Nichols and Stevens in their book Are You Listening , report this experiment on listening behavior. Teachers were instructed to interrupt their classes at random and to ask students what they were thinking about; to ask them what the instructor was talking about and to write it all down. Here are some of the very discouraging statistics:
90 % of the first grade students were listening
80 % of the second grade students were listening
43 % of the junior high school students were listening
28 % of the high school students were listening
Based upon a projection of these figures, can you imagine how professional people would rate as listeners, since they have all attended college and graduate school? (Frightening, isn’t it?)
Nichols and Stevens also tell of a Pharaoh who lived in the year 4004 B.C. who was very sensitive to people. He instructed his aides who were assigned to listen to the complaints of his people to remember it was more important for the plaintiff to be heard than to feel that his problem had been solved. Pretty wise for an old Pharaoh!
I think there are two types of listener. One is deliberate and tuned in very carefully to the content of a message. He evaluates, criticizes and judges if the material being presented is good material, and is well presented and worth listening to. The second is more interpersonal or subjective relationship listening. This is trying to hear a person without necessarily criticizing or evaluating what is being said; withholding judgment and trying to understand the underlying interpersonal message.
Let me give you an illustration from my own personal life. My middle son, Danny, was in the fourth or fifth grade, and on days when I was home would always ask me to please help him with his math homework. . Naturally, the subject that interested me least in school was mathematics, and trying to understand modern math was not my biggest thrill. So I spent some time with Danny and tried to read the book up to the point where he was on a problem. We read it over and over and over in our attempt to understand modern math. I would ask him if he finally grasped it, and he would say he didn’t and that we should try it one more time. Then suddenly it began to dawn on me. The nights I was out, I asked my wife Jeannie if Danny asked her for any help with his math. She told me he just worked and got it done. 1 finally figured out he wasn’t asking for help with his math. What he was asking of me was, “Dad, can 1 spend some time with you?” I was finally hearing the second level of the message. So the next time he asked me for some help with his math, I said, “Danny, you know I’m not very good in that subject. I have a feeling that you can get through pretty quick all by yourself. Why don’t you finish your homework as fast as you can, and then we’ll have some time to be together and talk. How does that sound?” You can imagine how quickly his homework was done!
Now, let me ask you. “Do you want to become a good listener?”
You can learn how to be a more effective listener only if you first decide to learn how to listen more effectively. You must decide to expend more mental energy and make a conscious effort to break some real old bad habits of ineffective listening. Practice will be needed for you to develop the skills needed in the art of listening.
Have you ever wondered why so many of us have difficulty remembering people’s names? (Oh, yah! You too?) It isn’t very hard to understand why. We don’t remember them because we never, in fact, hear their names in the first place. We are too preoccupied with our own thoughts, feelings and discomfort. Secondly, if we do hear the name, we don’t repeat it so we could make use of it and hear it again. Thirdly, we don’t spend energy to associate that particular name with something else to give us a clue.
I’ve got to tell you a little story about a pastor who had a very difficult time remembering names of his parishioners. Someone gave him a hint that he should listen carefully and then try to give some association to the name. There was one very important person in his parish, an elderly, wealthy widow (that made her very important!) whose name was Mrs. Humick. After thought, he decided that he would associate Humick with stomach and therefore never forget her name. He was so proud of himself that the next Sunday when he saw her he said, “Good morning, Mrs. Kelly. How are you?” To become a good listener, one must first become aware of some of the barriers that get in the way. The first and most obvious one is preoccupation with our own thoughts, anxieties, weaknesses and fears. Maybe we are afraid that our inadequacies will be discovered. Then we fear rejection. I must confess that one of my greatest sins is my ability to go off on great mind trips which I call “creative adventures of the mind.” In reality, I get so preoccupied with my own thoughts that very often someone has to set a bomb off at home to wake me up to listen to them. My wife Jeannie has threatened to write an exposé on what it’s like to live with a renowned communicator who listens and communicates with other people but whose family finds him hard to reach at times.
The next barrier is assuming you know what a person already thinks, feels and needs. This often takes place when one person starts a sentence. The other assumes he knows the complete story and finishes the other person’s message. The first person is left with the puzzled feeling, “That’s funny. I wasn’t going to talk about that at all!” We often assume that with our crystal ball we know all the facts. Let me test your ability to discern if you know all the facts by recording this account:
On a cold January day, a 43-year-old man was sworn in as
chief executive of his country. By his side stood his predecessor,
a famous general who just 15 years previously had commanded
his country’s armed forces in a war which resulted in a total
defeat of the German nation. The young man was brought up in
the Roman Catholic faith. After the ceremony there was a 5-hour
parade in his honor, and he stayed up until 3:00 A.M. celebrating.
Who is it? The facts in this account are enough to make the average citizen in the United States immediately assume that it was the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. It was, in fact, an account of the installation of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany. As I have said earlier in the book, labels are barriers that prevent effective listening, and inhibit communication between people. Labels are just symbols and merely words. When you give a word a personal meaning it takes on a reality and substance for you.. Then you are stuck with it. Labels are ear plugs in interpersonal relationships. It is very difficult to refrain from judging and evaluating another person s message. Our minds go at a much faster pace than we are able to listen, so it is easy to go out on space trips while we are trying to hear, and only catch parts and bits and pieces of what a person is trying to say. It’s natural for us to think of a response before the other person has finished his sentence. When we do that we’ve stopped listening and are answering messages that people aren’t sending.
The second level of listening to a message involves being aware, not only of the message, but the context in which the message takes place. The context will have an effect upon the communicative process. The non-verbal messages from the walls, feelings of the room, the color, the life and the dullness all have some effect upon the room and its ability to hear what even the wall has to say. These influences on behavior are often ignored. For a few moments I want you to use your imagination and listen to the messages from these living environments:
You see a slum with trash spilling out on the sidewalk. A child is looking down at the concrete from steps going into an apartment. What do you hear?
You are in a gray, bleak and barren back ward in a state mental hospital with people sitting on benches. Their appearance is heightened by baggy clothes, and there’s a smell that is only too common in such a ward. How would you feel in that environment?
The next scene is of a beautiful, royal blue ocean with whitecaps breaking against a sparkling, sandy beach. The beach is outlined by palm trees and a few fluffy white clouds. How do you feel about that message?
A warm fire is crackling in the fireplace. The lights are softly lit and outside the picture window is a scene of a quiet snowfall. Soft music is playing in the background, and you are there with the person you want to share that environment. What are your feelings now?
People’s behavior and the ground rules of communication are influenced by the environment. Many modern architects and designers are creatively changing and beautifying the living environments of medical and dental offices, airports, hospitals and various businesses. It’s no surprise for me to hear of how these positive changes are affecting behavior, and how excited and pleased are their clients. To listen with empathy means to hear the person, not just the words to try to see the world through his eyes—to try to get in touch with the uniqueness of that person
Reuel Howe states in his book The Miracle of Dialogue that communication is accomplished, not when the barriers are wiped away, but when they are accepted as part of the dialogue. If we can accept hostile-defensive behavior and become flexible, we can learn how to get beyond the defensiveness to the person behind the wall. The defense mechanism is a psychological phenomenon by which a person automatically protects himself against being hurt or feeling guilty or anxious.
My goal is to help you to understand defensive behavior, to reduce hostility, and to teach you how to practice listening to people’s hidden messages. This is one of the most important skills you can learn, whether as a husband or wife, a boss, in business or any profession. I hope it will help you acquire some techniques and also reduce uptightness and the knots in your stomach. If you believe you are threatened by a situation or person, you will normally react defensively and so will the other person. This defensiveness reduces the ability to listen; thus communication becomes distorted and there is a lack of trust in the relationship. Maybe it would be good to discuss the ways defensive behavior is achieved.
Strategy No. 1. — To make people more defensive: Always be critical and judgmental of the other person. Be very quick to point out any faults, flaws or errors in his presentation, his looks or what he says. This will guarantee that he will be more guarded, resistive and hostile. Just remember the last time someone did you the courtesy of raking you over the coals, pointing out every flaw in your character, and every mistake in your work. Maybe you are a secretary who has worked hard all day trying to get everything done. Five minutes before quitting time the boss decides that five more letters need to he finished. Then he blows up and criticizes you for being sloppy iii your work and not dedicated to your profession! Always being evaluated and criticized is a sure-fire way to make someone feel insecure and react defensively.
Strategy No. 2. When you want to control a relationship and to manipulate a person to do what you want to be accomplished. arrange the conversation so he can’t get a word in edgewise. Bombard him with your brilliance, use fancy words he can’t understand so that he will feet inferior and stupid. then, bewildered and befuddled, he will follow your advice. This is also a very excellent technique to make him react more defensively and cynically, and become a paranoid listener.
Vance Packard in his book Hidden Persuaders~ describes how people are bombarded with persuasive messages to manipulate their minds, feelings and wills with a frighteningly subtle effectiveness. In dealing with people at home or at work, one of the first ways to break down someone’s defensive hostility is to listen to the second level of what lie’s saying. What a person believes or expects in a relationship is usually based on prior experience. Only until he’s made aware that this experience will he different will he turn off some of his negative tapes and preoccupation with the past and enter into the here and now.
As a consultant, I have often suggested to business, dental and other professional offices that they develop a “zingcr” notebook. This is simply a notebook that is kept in a central place, such as the front desk. [very time somebody gets a hostile zinger he writes it down in the .zinger hook. Then at a staff meeting, the zingers for the week are gone over and written out on a chalk board to try to find out what the hidden messages are behind them. Not only will the staff be trained how to listen to the second level of a message, but the real payoff is that no one is afraid to receive the zinger, because he knows what to do with it. [his gets to be a little confusing for the traditional complainer, who loves to let go with one more zinger, to see someone standing there with a little smile on his face, not becoming hostile or irked because he just can’t wait to write that zinger down in the book. This is a very powerful way to hang loose in an office. You needn’t he hooked on other people’s hangups and let their negative behavior ruin your day.
Now that you have some awareness of what might be said to you on the second level, how do you respond to this hostile-defensive message? What usually happens is that somebody gives you a zinger during the day, and at 2 A.M. you wake up with a brilliant answer. I suggest you write down the zinger in the book together with a list of possible responses you could use.
The following procedures may be helpful to reduce hostile- defensive behavior in people:
1. Respond to the obvious. Maybe somebody’s nervous, afraid, distrustful or just plain frustrated. Comment on it. Don’t go beyond that until you have given them some feedback on their uptightness.
2. Accept the hostile message. This has a really interesting effect because when you react non-defensively, it’s very disarming to the uptight one. After accepting the message, give the person some feedback. Let him know you are trying to understand him; to understand his world of reality. It does not mean that you have to agree with that reality, but that you respect his uniqueness. Most important do not immediately begin to explain or cross-examine the
3. Don’t be victimized by the explaining syndrome. When somebody confronts you with a mistake or accuses you of something wrong, don’t immediately go into a lengthy explanation.
4. Deal with a person honestly. Remember what Abe Lincoln said. “Tell the truth, so you won’t have so much to remember.”
5. Dare to be open about the who that you are. John Powell in his book Why am I afraid to tell you who I am? makes this statement: “To reveal myself openly and honestly takes the rawest kind of courage. I can help you to accept and open yourself mostly by accepting and revealing myself to you.” Simply, it means for you to be open and honest and say “Yes, I can understand how
frustrating it is to be kept waiting, or to buy something and have it
break down.” I would feel the same way you do.
These five steps sound very easy, don’t they? But they can be very difficult because they represent attitudes that must be learned and practiced until they become familiar. When someone is confronted with a defensive-hostile message, the normal reaction is to counterattack with his own hostile-defensive message, to automatical- ly ask why the other person thinks that. The “why” anyone does this is a very defense-evoking question few of us can really answer. We give reasons for our behavior, but we rarely know the real reason why we behave the way we do, and so we respond with hostility. It’s like saying, “O.K., so you hit me with a rock. I’m going to get a bigger rock!’’ We call that “war.”
The art of responsemanship is a learned skill which you can learn if you decide you want to spend the energy. Please remember that responsemanship is a new behavior. Don’t discount yourself and say it doesn’t sound like you. If you stumble or fumble around in the learning process, remember you’re just being trained in new behavior and say it doesn’t sound like you.
The goal is to learn how to respond to hostile-defensive behavior to break down the defensive walls and, with the power of acceptance and understanding, make the other person feel safe. It is tremendously important to let him know that there is someone who will listen, who will even accept hostility and then offer understanding. When you respond to the obvious and accept the zinger, you’re demonstrating a very powerful way to build a relationship. The hostile message is sent, and the sender is expecting a hostile message back, but he does not expect acceptance or understanding. When he receives it, this causes him to turn off his negative tapes and begin to think. I have always said when people begin to think there is always hope.
Each of us has a basic need to be accepted as we are, even at our most unlovable times. Acceptance by another frees a person from the prison of the past and allows him to grow and experience a new relationship. When someone has become very angry with me, I first communicate to them with an open body posture. I show them that I am unreserved and unafraid. This is no time to cross your arms tightly across your chest. I let the person unload what’s on his mind and tell me all. When he is finished I lean forward and calmly say, “Are you sure there isn’t anything more?” This is not the expected response. The other person feels somewhat awkward because I have accepted his hostility and not reacted in a hostile-defensive manner. Remember this psychological factor-hostility is like a boil; it must be drained before there is healing. Behind the negative hurt feeling, once drained, there is the possibility for positive emotions to surface.
Here, again, are five basic rules to follow in breaking down the walls of defensive behavior:
1. Respond to the obvious message.
2. Accept the hostile message. This does not mean agreement.
3. Through feedback let the person know that you are trying to
4. Don’t answer the message or offer an explanation of your
ideas or procedures at this time.
5. Deal with the person honestly and dare to reveal yourself as a
human being who cares.
When you practice responsemanship always consider your reaction to a zinger, by evaluating it on these criteria.
A. If I respond to the zinger in this manner, have I really heard the second level message?
B. Does this response indicate rejection or acceptance? Will it increase more hostile-defensive behavior or will it take few brocks out of the wall and now begin to build a bridge to a relationship? Am I really demonstrating that I am trying to understand?
CAN YOU WAIT TILL FRIDAY? ......the psychology of HOPE.
By: DR. KEN OLSON, (pgs. 23-33)
Copyright @ by Kenneth J. Olson, 1975
Published by: O’Sullivan, Woodside & Company
2218 East Magnolia, Phoenix, Arizona
Church of the Science of God
La Jolla, California 92038-3131
© Church of the Science of GOD, 1993