Saturday, October 1, 2011

Robert Augustus Masters - Listening, and a Deeper Listening…

This is an old article from Robert Augustus Masters, but for some reason I just happened upon it. Maybe it was synchronicity since so much of what I do now is about listening.

As men we get a bad rap for being poor listeners, but we are also never really taught how to listen. In some ways, I was lucky to have grown up partly in a house full of females (after my father died) and to often have had females as best friends. I learned how to listen (and I am still learning).

Perhaps this is why most graduate level counseling programs are around 5:1 females over males - males are rarely taught how to listen and so they do not enter professions that require them to listen (intently and actively).  On the other hand, I know a lot of females in the counseling world who are terrible listeners - so this is not really a gender issue.

This old article sheds like on the art of listening,

Listening, and a Deeper Listening…

November 15th, 2010 | By Robert Augustus Masters

He is speaking slowly and carefully, accurately describing the verbal dynamics of what has just happened between himself and his partner. Several times she starts to speak, but he gently waves her off, saying that when he’s done, she’ll have her turn to speak. On he goes, deftly dissecting the tiny argument they’d gotten into five or so minutes ago.

She leans toward him, her eyes sad, her jaw tightening, as if fighting to hold back her speech; she is afraid that if she interrupts him, he will very likely label her as immature, or — though he’d never say it outloud — as a bitch. So she keeps quiet. Two more minutes pass. He’s still not done.
Finally, she breaks eye contact, looking down. He shows no sign of noticing. She’s thinking about leaving him, and he doesn’t have a clue. The signs are there, and have been for a while, but he’s missing them. When he stops a minute later, she has nothing to say. Tears cover her face. They never argue again. Such brilliant cognition, such an incisive, finely nuanced mind, but such emotional retardation — this is what she writes about him, a few months after she has left him.
Listening is an art.
It asks for more than open ears, more than data-absorbing focus, and much more than agreement or disagreement. Full attention, undivided attention, wide-awake attention, attention that is not allowed to wander or shrink, is essential to listening, especially in the context of intimate relationship.
Although listening might seem like a passive activity — hence the commonplace framing of the listener as lesser than the speaker in many a masculine mind — it is actually quite dynamic. Its requisite openness is not an undiscerning or weakly-boundaried receptivity, but rather a vital clearing for deep hearing.
Listening is all about being wholly attentive to our partner, and not just to what is being said! As we hear what isn’t being said, and respond to that without speaking, we deepen our resonance with our partner, becoming an open space for the fullest possible expression of what he or she is attempting to convey to us.
Read the whole article.

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