Recently I listened to a TED Radio Hour presentation on quiet. What it means to be still. Two of the people they interviewed quit speaking for a number of years voluntarily. After they began to speak again, they learned that they became much more effective listeners. Why? Because by not saying anything, their words could never get in the way of understanding what the other person was trying to say.
Compare this with two instances I recently saw, when people said things where they had no awareness of the effect they had on others by what they said. One instance was during a moment of anger. Another instance was during a selfish outburst to protect their ego.
Effective listening is always directed at what another person says while you are present. My focus is on effectively listening to ourselves by trying to hear our own voice when we speak.
Often I wonder how much of what I say I don’t understand. Was it said well? Was it received well? Did I leave things out or did I say something to protect my ego or to let go of the rage that was burning inside of me at the expense of hurting the other person? Conversation is so fast, it’s hard to reflect on our words during any interchange of thoughts.
A great mentor of mine used to remind me all of the time that people, without realizing it, “use words as swords”. They can hurt others. What I have also seen is that they can complicate relationships when they’re ambiguous, selfish, or full of emotion. His admonition was be “slow to speak and quick to think”.
Our humanity challenges us daily by mixing everything that surrounds us into the conversations and reactions we have at a moment in time. It is hard to separate them from being present in the moment. To respond responsibly and with clarity leaving behind everything that has stressed us to this point.
Facial expressions and body language give us clues as to who the other person is at the moment we are together. But it’s the words said with their tone & their selfishness or objectivity that we react to most directly. This is true for both of us in any conversation.
With so many things in life. It’s never only about them. We always forget to bring a mirror with us to see who we are, how do we sound, and what feelings do our words generate in the other person during our conversations with others.
Connecting in this world by hearing our own voice, while we speak, is a very hard thing to do. To watch for feedback instantly before our next sentence begins. It is also true that some things are better left unsaid. For they neither add nor improve a situation. Especially when you try to defend the past for there is no way you can take back or change what has already occurred.
The challenge is to choose our words wisely while hearing our own voice during the rush of each day. Adjusting to the person, the moment, and the context of the topic with clarity and openness is the beginning to being present in any conversation.
It is the ultimate gift that we can both give and should look forward to receiving if only we could hear our own voice during the times we are together to make things even better.