Sorry, I heard that, but I wasn’t listening …
Hearing and listening are not the same.
In fact, they live on different planes of existence and consciousness. Hearing is an automatic response done by the ears, that only the ears can do. This function could be compared to breathing daily or getting goose bumps as a cool breeze passes- the body does these things on its own without thought or processing. Listening, on the other hand, is not a function of the ears, but rather the result of information gathered by any of the senses. It might seem as though listening itself is a great improvement over hearing, and it is. However, listening alone is still not the end goal, we can go one step further. ‘Listening with the whole self’, elevates listening to a higher level, and takes thought, detail, and multi-tasking.
So what does it mean to, ‘listen with your whole self’, and how is it done?
Have you ever not been able to hear a conversation across a noisy room, but you can see a hostile interaction, or two people on a first date nervously conversing? You have just listened with your eyes. Or when someone who says, “they are great today”, but you know it isn’t true? That is listening with your instinctive self, as the subtext to what people communicate can be more important than the actual words. What about the time you walked into a room and you could feel tension? This is your sensory listening kicking in, relying on that extra sense we all have to provide us crucial decision-making information. We even listen with our senses of touch and smell. Independently these senses are just that, an independent sense. Sure, we can listen to an independent sense, however, when one is observant enough to put them all together these senses become elevated to the level of, ‘listening with the whole self’.
‘Listening with the whole self’, can only happen in concert with all the other senses while simultaneously analyzing each piece of data and formulating an appropriate response. This process should occur a million times daily. Does it? This process can occur, to one who continually practices, within seconds. Do your employees, colleagues, teachers, and people in your life, ‘listen with their whole self’? The improviser does at all times, or faces a terminal fate. Shouldn’t the people whom you surround yourself with, ‘listen with their whole self’, to effectively: communicate, make decisions, process information or collaborate? You see, when they merely hear, they are too focused on their own prior notions to listen. When they just listen, rather than, ‘listening with the whole self’, they are neglecting the collaboration of senses which allow for daily communication, and therefore, they will process only part of the information from their colleagues, students, parents and life travelers, consequently making ill-advised decisions.
To put this in its simplest form; we have these senses for a reason. To get the full picture, we must compile the information, or data, from the different teams or committees, once this is collected, then and only then, can we analyze to formulate the best decision. Listening is not always enough though, we must also be prepared to drop all previous notions which we might have had prior to collecting this data and adjust our path while we collaborate. After all, what good is listening if we are not appropriately responding? We lose all collaboration when listening is not immediately followed with an appropriate response.
Challenge: Acknowledge when you are listening with each different sense, and then ask yourself what information another sense obtained. Slowly put them all together. Sometimes you might just change your opinion of someone, or be more open to an idea.
A post to accompany this one is, "A better father with improvisation". This is just one of the techniques to apply to your life. Marrying this with the other elements gives greater success.