Monday, November 8, 2010

Can You Hear Me And Are You Listening?

In Jon Stewart's closing remarks at the Rally to Restore Sanity he said "If we amplify everything we hear nothing."  But what if we hear and don't actually listen?

When we listen we get the meaning of what is trying to be conveyed within the context of which it is being spoken. Hearing is often cherry picking words or phrases and repeating them back in a way to convey the meaning  we want them to have, not necessarily what the person saying them meant. For example the snippet of a sentence that is served back up as promotional teaser to get us to read more, watch more, or click through to the next link.

I've always been a good listener.  They used to give grades for it in Elementary School. I always got an outstanding. But even with the highest grade you could get I didn't understand. I never heard I was good at something. I heard the negative side, that I was too quiet and didn't raise my hand enough.

But that's what I mean about listening versus hearing.

Listening is a skill that includes comprehension and understanding. Hearing often reflects our own issues. Sometimes it is a process in which we look for the parts we want to hear and ignore the rest. Hearing sometimes is nothing more than a garble of words strung into sentences that if someone asked us to repeat back would be met by a blank stare.

I didn't know back in third grade that being a good listener would make me money. In my first sales job I was told that if I asked the right questions and listened to the answers the client would give me all the information I needed to close a deal. It sounded too simple to be true.

I wasn't going to close a lot of business by going in and starting to talk without knowing what the client needed and how that could match up to my radio station. But if I listened carefully, took notes and applied some strategic thinking I would have the perfect pitch and close a lot of business. Yes, it was really that easy.

It doesn't seem a lot of  people take the time to ask the questions and listen for the answers anymore.   Most seem to be talking too much. Call it a casuality of the "over amplifying" 24/7 world, but there is too much focus on getting your pitch out fast and furious so you can be heard above the crowd whether or not anyone is interested in hearing it. There just isn't enough real listening going on.

But there is a lot of hearing what we want to. And a lot more of twisting the parts we do catch to suit our purposes or worse yet, create unintended meaning.

The number one concern voters had at the polls last week was the economy, yet the new majority in Congress seems most focused on repealing Health Care. Are they listening or hearing?

At the Rally to Restore Sanity over 200,000 people turned out from all over the country because they are tired of the yelling and name calling and lack of focus on the real issues that the media spins out of proportion.  The majority of that media heard the rally to be nothing more than a comedy show. The only one who seemed to really be listening was Arianna Huffington.  The rest chose not to listen or perhaps only to hear what they wanted to. I'm guessing it's because they really like enraging and inciting and don't want to hear that most of us want them to stop.

Sometimes we don't really listen because we don't want to acknowledge the truth. Say you start dating someone who tells you loudly and clearly they are not interested in an exclusive relationship. You say you are OK with that. But when you cause a big scene the night you run into them on a date with someone else they are going to ask you if you heard them. You did, but you weren't  listening.

In such a noisy world slowing down long enough to really listen, for yourself and not the way someone else might suggest you comprehend things becomes more important than ever before. It will make all the difference in what your life looks like. Because if you do make the time and you listen and not just hear words, you'll get all the answers you need to create whatever you want for yourself and the world.  Sometimes the voice speaking is the one right inside of you. But you have to be quiet first before you can hear it. And once you hear it you have to listen.


Do you take the time to listen?
Do you think there is a difference between hearing and listening?
What are you hearing today?
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