Thinking Magically™ | It Has Nothing to Do With Active Listening. It’s Active Doing That Matters

I like to listen.
I have learned a great deal from listening carefully.
Most people never listen.
– Ernest Hemingway

How many times have you been told that listening is what matters most? And when you actually listen to the person who’s telling you that, have they ever explained to you precisely how that listening is supposed to happen?

Here’s what I know . . . all of us were born good listeners. From the time our hearing developed inside our mothers at 16 weeks, we started listening. And most of us even started hearing the outside noises. In perceiving those outside noises, understanding begins. Only after that happens, do we start to use our mouth to make our own sounds. Eventually, our sounds become words. And, if we’re lucky, our words eventually make sense to someone else.

Ponder over that for a moment.

What we eventually see and put into some type of context. . .

What we ultimately hear and appreciate as a message . . .

What we first feel and translate into a state of mind . . .

What we finally think and make judgments about . . .

What we perpetually want and thus crave . . .

. . . all started with us listening to some “thing” or some “one” other than ourself.

We’ve been listening for a long time. That doesn’t mean, however, that we’re getting better at it. In fact, I think quite the contrary is true. In this fast-paced world filled with a barrage of messaging and content and noise, we have actually learned not to listen in order to be heard, make a difference, and keep our sanity.

So when someone tells you to be a better listener or, worse, to be an active listener, ignore them. That’s right. Turn a blind eye – or better yet, a deaf ear – to them. They’re wrong. You don’t need to actively listen.

You need to actively DO.

What do I mean?

Well, when you “do” anything it becomes experiential. It is observing and participating. It is enduring. It is enjoying. It is suffering through. And it is relishing,

Most importantly, it is about participation and being hands-on and being involved. Listening is really passive. Participation and involvement are choices. You always want to make choices. In fact, where you are right now in your life is a direct result of the choices you’ve made. Keep that in mind as you choose who to “listen” to and who to untangle from.


Want to be a massive success? Then participate in your own listening like this:

STEP ONE.  Shape the conversation you are going to have before it ever happens. Anybody can listen. Relatively few are good at comprehending what someone else is saying. I spend more time sorting through misunderstandings people have when they “listen” to each other than anything else. Most of these mistakes and misconceptions could have been avoided if the parties to the conversation and exchange would simply have made a conscious choice, beforehand, to appreciate, believe in, or simply comprehend what the other person is saying (or not saying).

STEP TWO. A personal belief marks boundaries. Finger-pointing marks conflict. If you’re going to be involved with someone in a conversation, you don’t want it to be struggle from the beginning. Not if you want the two or more of you to realize what the other is saying. This means you need to talk with someone without those blame sirens going off in your head all the time.

STEP THREE. Multi-tasking is for computers not for someone who actively “does.” Most people have the attention span of a gnat. And when you couple that with the new “need” of people to always check the latest post, alarm, reminder, update, email, or text message on their “smart” phone, it’s a wonder anyone knows anyone else is around them in the first place. I get it. I get that there’s a high that’s experienced by the constant new input from your mobile device. But, if you want to really connect with someone and truly be understood and appreciated and even remembered, you need to focus your attention and intention on the person you are speaking with. You’ve developed a habit of inattention. It’s alright, you have permission to also develop a new habit of being immersed in another person and what they have to say.

STEP FOUR. Silence is your superpower. When I coach politicians, I routinely tell them that they have a superpower – the Power of Silence. I know it will come as a shock to you that very few of them actually use that superpower. So that’s a perfect excuse for you to do something that our leaders don’t do . . . be quiet for a little while. If you can’t figure out how to be silent from time to time, you can cheat a little by simply focusing on your breath as someone else is talking. That does not mean you are actively engaged in the conversation. It does mean, however, that you won’t be interrupting them or talking about yourself or bemoaning your situation.

Normally I’d finish up with some great closing paragraph. This time, I think I’ll just be quiet and let you finish the conversation for both of us . . .

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© 2014 by Scott Grossberg. All Rights Reserved.

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