Ego versus Humility
Can You Hear Me?
Abandoning a full-time career has provided for more time to sit around in groups and shoot the breeze. Sometimes, rather than contribute, I observe. What I hear, stirs up all sorts of thoughts and emotions. First and foremost, I fall back on a belief I might be running into the ground: people do not listen to one another. Everybody has something to say and few among us listen.
It’s true, make a conscious effort to observe what is happening around you today. I guarantee what you hear will disgust you. People talk over one another, disregard major points being made, ignore emotions and cries for help, and generally exhibit rude behavior. There are exceptions of course. I have a friend who will look directly into your eyes and actively listen. It’s incredibly effective. He always makes you feel as if he is taking in every word and processing what you are sharing. There will be a pensive pause and then a brief and thoughtful response. It’s the most incredible virtue.
I have observed him interacting with others and I have noticed that some individuals do not acknowledge his excellent active listening skills. These people are so wrapped up in their own need to spew bullshit, that they take no notice of the curtesy that has been extended to them. I’m sure there have been numerous studies done to help determine why people have a need to be heard and/or speak. I think it boils down to a few basic principles:
- Human beings rightly or wrongly believe that others care deeply about what they have to say. We have a strong need to be thought of as a person of authority.
- We all believe that we are actually listening, even when we’re not. Try telling someone that they haven’t heard you.
- We are afraid of silence. I’ll never understand the fear of silence. Have you ever observed an older couple in a restaurant sitting across from one another eating and neither one of them is speaking? It’s not that they have nothing to say to one another; in fact, they are more than likely just enjoying one another’s company and the silence. Many words are often spoken in silence; a look, a squeeze of the hand, a tender stroke on the cheek.
I’m not a psychologist or an authority on communication. What I know, I know from observation and reading. How often have you heard someone pose a question to a group, where an answer might not be readily available or known? You will rarely hear people say, “I don’t know.” Instead, more often than not, individuals will make up facts or distort the truth. This need to appear to know the answer is stronger than a desire to be truthful. Why is it so difficult to say, “That’s something I need to learn more about,” or “I don’t know.”
I absolutely love asking Alexa (Echo by Amazon). She (it) doesn’t always know the answer, but when she does, it’s extremely gratifying.
It’s natural to want to be right. When you’re in a group and everyone wants to be right, that’s a problem. Or when you have one person who always wants to be right, that’s also a problem. I know someone like this and he makes me crazy. I need to explore what this says about me.
Exercises You Might Like
Give the individual you are speaking to two minutes (more or less) to speak; tell them that you will not speak until their finished. When you are done responding, reverse roles. Do note use a timer because it can be distracting — approximate the time. The point is to not interrupt and allow your partner to complete a thought.
Listen and then speak: tell yourself to listen carefully and not to speak until you know the person whom is speaking is finished.
Ask a question and listen to the answer: whether or not you know the individual well doesn’t matter. There is always more to learn about someone. See what happens when you ask a question and silently listen to the response. During the lockdown a friend and I spoke daily. We made a commitment to ask one another three questions a day. It was an incredible exercise. I have known this friend for over 25 years, but I came to realize that I did not truly know her.
Ask for feedback: ask the person you are having a conversation with if they felt heard. “Did I listen to what you had to say today? Did it feel different than it has in the past? Could it have been better for you?” When you become a better listener, your partner will also improve.
Ask for what you need: we seldom if ever ask our partners to listen attentively. “John, I know you usually listen to what I have to say, but I’m asking you to focus on my words today. What I have to say is important and I’d like you to listen more carefully.” This request, repeated now and then, will remind your partner that you need to be heard. The other person will respect you for being clear. Always return the favor.
Provide positive reinforcement: “Wow Annie, I really felt like you were listening to me just then. Thank you, it means a lot to me.”
Admitting You’re Wrong
I think that when you realize you were or are wrong, the best thing to do is say so. People will be extremely understanding and they will more than likely tell you so. Telling someone something is legal when it’s actually not, doesn’t count.
A Good Read:
I Might Be Wrong by Björn Natthiko Lindebald
A weekend in São Bras de Alportel with friends this coming weekend, Milan and Genoa early September, Toronto, Denver, & Detroit, mid-September, Northern European cruise in October, Lyon in November; followed by a few other trips in the not-so-distant future.
Summer is almost over, I sure hope you’re enjoying it. I just finished a complete renovation of my bedroom. If you want a lift, spruce up a room or your entire home.
4 thoughts on “Why Being “Right” Can Be So Wrong”
Thank you for this terrific reminder. It was spot on.
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Thank you Lori; mostly a reminder to myself.
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It is so hard to just sit and listen. My zendo has that practice and I fail at it most often. Just to listen from the heart and not think about what I want to say in response. But it is a good practice to practice.
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You’re not a bad listener David.