I watched a video today about distraction. It explained how the brain can become accustomed to being unfocused and our inability to change it back. The presenter gave the example of someone having a cellphone in their hand, laying on their desk, next to their plate at a restaurant, or pulling it out of a pocket or purse during a conversation. At this moment the person with whom they are conversing or meeting with realizes they are not the most important person or thing in the room. The cellphone says to the other; “Someone may call who’s more important than you. Something might ‘ding’ indicating a happening that’s more important than you.” It also impacts the person who has the phone because now they have to look at the screen, see any notifications, continue to check for changes and updates.
I was talking with a group today and part of the session was on; “Listening more than you speak.” I used the adage; “You have two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you speak.” We spoke about respect and giving the person you are interacting with your eyes, ears, and mind. Focusing on the other when we are talking, engaging, communicating, connecting, experiencing each other is vital for all participants. When we are made to feel like we one of the many tasks a person has that day we lose our focus and become distracted by their distractions.
A Little Higher –
A year and a few months ago I wrote about my major depressive disorder and my attempts to begin to run again after a two-year hiatus. I also wrote, a few weeks later, about major knee pain, a visit to an orthopedic and the diagnosis that running wasn’t in my future. I tried again earlier this year and knee pain came back.
For those with depressions and anxiety, the BIG 3 in treating them are medicine therapy, talk therapy, and exercise. There are a lot of other things as well but these three are the foundation to successfully living with the disease. Without running I’ve spent the last few months trying to find another effective and somewhat enjoyable way to work out. I’ve found a few cross training videos that seem to hit the intersection.
One of the instructors on a video says the following; “Watch your posture. Imagine two balloons tied to your ears lifting you high, keeping your body straight as you do this workout.” I’ve watched the video and heard this instructor say it so often I know when it’s coming and I’m already checking my body’s alignment.
I’ve also thought about the advice in other parts of my life. Too many times I’m looking down, hunched over, not seeing the light and feeling the heat of the sun because my face is looking at the ground. Depression has this type of impact on a person. However, if I would, even on my darkest days, put those balloons on I might be surprised how looking up can help when I’m feeling down.
Open Ears –
No one likes to be told they’re wrong, what they believe is misplaced, what they think is illogical, what they say is confused. Compliments are nice, they stay with us for a while, like a pretty flower, that eventually fades. Criticisms can be wounding and leave a scar that impacts how we live, feel about ourselves, understand our world. This is why criticism is met most often with denial and contempt.
However, one of the greatest disciplines is to learn how to listen to those who may not have the nicest things to say about us. In spite of the urge to fight or insult, hurt them for hurting us, simply dismiss, we should listen. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is; “Listening is not agreeing.” We listen out of respect for the other because we cannot be respected if we don’t first respect. We listen because each of us has our own ideas, ways of doing things, view of life
Finally, we listen because maybe they are saying something we need to hear. Some of the hardest criticisms to accept are those which end up being on target. Perhaps at first, we didn’t want to hear what was being said but a wise person always allows for the possibility of growth. After listening and reflecting we heed the criticism and, hopefully, grow and become a better person because of it.
Aristotle says; “The sign of a wise mind is the ability to think a thought and not necessarily believe it to be true.”
I believe Aristotle might add that sometimes, what is said and thought, turns out to be true.
What is Received –
Some friends and I were talking the other day about listening. More to the point, we were talking about people hearing things which were never said.
In communication lectures I emphasize the importance of knowing your audience. To the best of your knowledge; have they had a good day, how are they feeling, are there any stressors and pressures weighing heavily upon them? All of these determine what they hear when you speak to them.
What about environment? What is the location of your conversation, do you have privacy, are there bystanders, can you talk without being interrupted by eavesdroppers? Again, these have a lot to do with how your words to another are perceived. And of course, what is your history with the person whom you’re speaking with?
Communication is 80% non-verbal. Only 20% of what we say to another person, or a group of people, is said with language.There are many other factors to be considered to ensure your words are received with the right intent. Unfortunately, even taking most or all of these ingredients in mind, it doesn’t guarantee the words you speak will be what the listener hears.
As one who speaks one on one and to groups of people regularly I have many stories of folks excitedly telling me; “What you said today really spoke to me!” When I inquire about the specifics they share about topics I didn’t talk about and hadn’t even considered! “Thank you!” they say. “You’re welcome!” I reply and walk away trying to figure out how they received what I clearly didn’t give.
It also happens in my writings. A few months ago I wrote about an ugly shirt and a comment someone made about the unsightly garment. As I try to do in my daily writings I gave a lesson learned from the encounter. I thought it was well written and to the point until someone responded to my post in an aggressive way. Though I tried to explain that what he received wasn’t what I wrote, it didn’t matter. Eventually I had to accept what he read and the meaning he took away from it even though it wasn’t my intent.
Wisdom tells us to measure our words. They are incredibly powerful. They build and destroy. Lift us up or tear others down. Too often we are careless with what comes out of our mouths and never consider the consequences until after the words are spoken. Breathe, before your speak and when what is received offends and harms, make sure you apologize with words more carefully chosen then the one which came before.
My Siberian Husky, Trooper, is an interesting dog. He’s also very in tune with what happens around him. This morning I had an early appointment and after shuffling around in my house slippers, fixing my coffee, I went and threw on a pair of jeans and tennis shoes. I walked back into the kitchen to grab my coffee mug and Trooper jumped up ready to go outside. He’d been out just moments earlier but picked up on the sound of my sneakers which triggered his response. After telling him; “Sorry bud. We aren’t going anywhere,” I petted his head, gave him a dog biscuit, grabbed my coffee, and headed out the door.
I reflected on his awareness to simply the sound of shoes. I long for my physical ears and the ears of my spirit and emotions to be so attuned. To know when to move and be still. To hear more than words when conversing with people. To be more sensitive in my spirit. Wisdom tells me this requires a willingness to discover the difference between what’s worth listening to and what to ignore.