“The first duty of Love is to LISTEN” – Paul Tillich
Shall I be a better person if I listen more? Would we be better people if we truly listen to each other? Would the world be better if we listen carefully and deeply to everyone another’s problems, opinions, thoughts and dreams?
I think the answer to these questions is a big Yes, particularly in our reality where the word “Empathy” seems to lessen its value and strength day by day. As mentioned, in the modules of Listening Skills, Listening is called “The Forgotten Skill”. And it truly is! If we pay attention to how everybody listen to each other now days or how we get involved in different conversations, we can feel how superficial our listening process is and how much self – centered we are in every communication we do.
While listening, the majority of us is always thinking about the impact the phrase or sentence has to himself, to his opinions, his beliefs and his values. Another way of listening is to listen only the part of the sentence that has more interest on us, has a possible impact in our daily activity, the part of the sentence in which we can find any benefit for ourselves. While an alternative way of general listening is what I call “The diagonal listening”, meaning focusing only on different phrases or clues so that we can construct a basic version in the end of the conversation without listening to details that seem to overload our brain with un useful information.
Generally, if you observe the communication taking place between different people, you see and feel that people listen partially, mainly to preserve themselves from flooding information or with the aim of jumping to conclusions easily regarding the topic of the conversation. In the center of all this, is our EGO. We listen to satisfy our EGO, we listen to love more our EGO and to love more ourselves. Even when we listen more carefully, again, there is a self -centered interest in that topic that make us more prone to carefully listen. While listening and thinking concentrated mainly in ourselves, the judgmental process of thinking and listening begins to take place.
What does it mean to be judgmental?
If you search for the word judgmental in the dictionary there are generally two meanings. One has to do with making judgments in order to be able to evaluate or make decisions, “the ability to judge of form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action, good sense and discretion”. The other meaning of judgmental has to do with “being overly critical” or “tending to form opinions too quickly, especially when disapproving of something or someone”.
It is this second meaning that should worry us and make us motivated to limit its use as much as possible. It is when we make judgments in this negative way that we begin to limit our capacity on communication, constructing good conversations and building relationships. When do we develop the judgment through the course of our life? Is it an innate sense of thinking or we develop it day by day going into adulthood?
Look at children for example. One of the most beautiful things is watch young kids of different races happily playing together. They do not see colors of the skin of the kids, they only see other kids. If we compare the judgmental approaches of them towards other children, we notice that there is less judgmental when they are toddlers. This has different reasons going from a not developed brain yet to the fact that toddlers haven’t had time to develop their experiences which in turn are followed by biases, beliefs and prejudices.
Our judges, thought and opinions are based fundamentally in our experiences, education, culture, beliefs and the biases that were formed during a lifetime.
It is hard work to try and change the way we are used to listen but every small step everyday, is s big step forward towards deep listening, less judges and truthful relationships.