“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” ~Winston Churchill
You have worked all your life to become experienced. Congratulations! It worked. You now have a resume and skills and tools and methods.
But have you noticed that the more experienced you get, the harder it is to fit in something new? After all, you have all this stuff that is working, you wouldn’t want to rock the boat.
It gets to the point where not only do you have difficulty accepting anything new, you even have difficulty hearing anything new. Your perspective has become, in your estimation, an abundance of riches. There is not room for even one more precious gem. In fact, you worry that adding one more diamond will upset the whole cache of jewels. Yes, you believe your own precious perspective is an overflowing treasure chest of abundance.
You Know Metaphors Aren’t Real, Right?
Ok, I got a little heavy-handed with the descriptors there. But it was for a purpose. I want to shake you out of your reverie about your perspective. Your perspective is not some rarified, holy thing. It’s just a thing. It is not The Truth. It is not special. It is likely not even that unique.
Wait a minute, wasn’t the whole point of me getting all this experience to make my perspectives more valuable and accurate? Yes. However, it was never meant to make your perspective perfect or all encompassing. So now, in your experienced state, it has become even more important that you listen — and listen properly.
I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now
Bob Dylan wrote it, The Birds sang it — oh those hippie dippie ’60’s when youth reigned supreme. These are the appealing qualities of youth: freshness, energy and hopefulness. Some get stale, tired and cynical as they get older. But it is not required.
When one gets stale, tired and cynical, listening not only seems hard, it seems dangerous. “What are they babbling on about this time? I have work to do.”
Learning comes from everywhere
Just because someone has less experience than you doesn’t mean they can’t teach you something. Just because they are often wrong doesn’t matter either. You don’t learn because they are a great teacher, or even a teacher at all. You learn because you open yourself to learning — by listening.
Remember I said you don’t listen?
You may well have dismissed the title of this little essay when you first saw it. You may have opined to yourself, “Of course I listen. In fact, I’m a great listener!” So let’s put a little spin on it. Sure, you hear the words that come out of other people’s mouths. But you have a filter in place that takes the meaning and often strips it or even alters it into something unrecognizable to the speaker.
How did that happen? Easy, it was your perspective, your experienced, self-cherished, wizened outlook. You busily compared it to what you already think you know, what you already believe, and what popped out the other side no longer qualifies as listening.
Unfiltered is for real listeners
What if you just listened with the filters off? Is the very thought of this making you edgy? It certainly doesn’t happen automatically. It may have been so long since you last listened without a filter that it seems uncomfortable and unfamiliar. But you started off that way. We all did. No one was born with any filters installed.
It’s not hard. It’s so easy in fact a child could do it (and they all do). There is no process or method to it. Just leave your baggage (I mean perspective) at the door. Shut up…hear…don’t judge…repeat.
“If I told you you don’t listen, could you hear me?” click to tweet
You will notice it is mostly about what you don’t do. It’s all the stuff we wrap around listening that neuters it. Just let it be.
You can be fresh, just like you used to be. You can be open. You can be innocent. Give it a shot. You may be surprised what you hear.
What have you heard lately by actually listening? Tell us about it by commenting below.
Photo credit: Jonathan Powell