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The 12 Blocks to Listening
There are twelve blocks to listen to. You will find that some are old favorites that you will use over and over again. Others are held in reserve for certain types of people or situations. Everyone uses listening blocks, so don’t worry if many blocks are familiar. This is an opportunity to become more aware of your blocks as you actually use them.
Comparison makes it difficult to listen, because you are always trying to evaluate who is smarter, more competent and more emotionally healthy – either you or the other person. Some people focus on who suffered more, who is a bigger victim. While someone is talking, think to yourself, “Can I do that well? Hey, my kids are so much brighter.” You can’t leave much because you’re too busy seeing if you measure up.
2. Mind Reading
The mind reader doesn’t pay much attention to what people say. In fact, they often challenge each other. It’s trying to understand what the other person is really thinking and feeling. “She says she wants to go to the show, but I bet she’s tired and wants to relax. She might resent it if I push her when she doesn’t want to go.” The mind reader pays less attention to words than to intonations and subtle subtleties in an effort to see through the truth.
If you are a mind reader, you probably make assumptions about how people will react to you.
“I bet he’s looking at my heavy skin… She thinks I’m stupid… She’s turned off by my shyness.” These notions are born from intuition, hunches and vague doubts, but they have little to do with what the person is actually telling you.
You don’t have time to listen when you try what he says. All your attention is on the preparation and creation of your next comment. You must look interested, but your mind is going a mile a minute because you have a story to tell, or a point to make. Some people repeat whole chains of answers: “First I will say, then he will say, then I will say,” and so on.
When you filter, you hear some things and not others. Just pay attention to see if someone is angry, or unhappy, or if you are in emotional danger. Once you are sure that the communication contains none of these things, let your mind wander. A woman listens to her son enough to know if he is struggling at school again. Relieved to hear that it isn’t, she starts thinking about her shopping list. A young man quickly ascertains what kind of mood his girlfriend is in. If he seems happy as she describes her day, her thoughts begin to wander.
Another way people filter is simply to avoid hearing certain things – anything in particular
threatening, negative, critical or unpleasant. It is as if the words were never said: You simply have no memory of them.
Negative labels have enormous power. If you judge someone as stupid or nuts or unqualified, don’t pay much attention to what they say. You already wrote it. To hastily judge a statement as immoral, hypocritical, fascist, or crazy means you have stopped listening and started a “knee-jerk” reaction. A basic rule of listening is that judgments should be made only after listening and evaluating the content of the message.
You’re in the middle of listening, and something the person says suddenly sets off a chain of privates
associates Your neighbor says she’s been fired, and in a flash I’m back to the scene where you fired me for playing hearts on those long coffee breaks. Hearts is a great game, and there have been many great nights playing the game. And you’re gone, only to come back a few minutes later as your neighbor says, “I knew you understood, but please don’t tell my husband.”
You are more prone to daydreaming when you are feeling bored or anxious. Everyone dreams – and sometimes it takes Herculean efforts to stay tuned. But if you dream a lot with certain people, it can indicate a lack of commitment to know or appreciate. At the very least, it is a statement that does not value what they have to say very much.
In this block, you take everything a person tells you and refer back to your experience. They want to talk about a toothache, but that reminds you of the time you had oral surgery to strengthen the gums. You jump into your story before they can finish theirs. Everything you hear reminds you of something you have felt, done, or suffered. You are so busy with these exciting tales of your life that there is no time to really listen or get to know the other person.
I am the great problem solver, ready with help and suggestions. You don’t have to listen to more than a few sentences before you start looking for the right advice. However, while cooking suggestions and convincing someone to “just try”, you can miss what is most important. You did not hear the feelings, and you did not recognize the pain of the person. He or she always feels deep down just because you couldn’t hear and just be there.
This blog has you discussing and arguing with people. The other person never feels heard
because you are quick to disagree. In fact, a lot of your focus is on finding things to disagree with. Take strong stands, be very clear about your beliefs and preferences. The way to avoid sparring is to repeat back and acknowledge what you heard. Find something you can agree on.
A subtype of sparring is the put-down. Use acerbic or sarcastic remarks to dismiss the other person’s point of view. For example, Sally starts telling Joe about her problems in an English class. Joe says, “When are you going to be smart enough to drop that class?” Jake feels overwhelmed by the noise of the TV. When he tells Rebecca, she says, “Oh, please, not the TV routine again.” The put-down is the standard block heard in many marriages. It quickly drives communication into stereotyped patterns where each person repeats a familiar hostile litany.
A second type of sparring is discounted. The discount is for people who can’t stand compliments. “Oh, I didn’t do anything… What do you mean, I was totally lame… That’s nice of you to say, but it’s really a very poor attempt.” The basic technique of discounting is to escape when you have a compliment. The other person never feels satisfied that you really heard their appreciation. And he’s right, you don’t.
10. Be fair
Being righteous means you will go to any length (twist the facts, start yelling, make excuses or accusations, call out past sins) to avoid making mistakes. You can’t listen to criticism, you can’t be corrected, and you can’t take suggestions for change. Your convictions are unshakable. And since you don’t recognize that your mistakes are wrong, you just keep doing them.
This listening block is achieved by suddenly changing the subject. Derail the conversation when you get bored or uncomfortable with a topic. Another way of derailing is joking. This means that you always respond to everything that is said with a joke or a joke to avoid discomfort or anxiety to seriously listen to the other person.
“Right – Right … Absolutely … I know … Of course you are … Incredible … Yes … Really? You want to be nice, pleasant and supportive. You want people to like you – so agree with everything. You might hear enough to drift off, but you’re not really involved. Rather, you tune in and examine what’s actually being said.
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