Listening Below the Surface of the Words
How well do you listen? Most people listen selectively. There
is really nothing wrong with that. You can not listen to everything.
In each situation, you need to determine how, what, how much,
and where to listen. You can listen and learn anyplace. Life
takes place in little vignettes.
At the Cleaners
My dry cleaners is remodeling, producing strain on limited
parking. The other day, several of us were frustrated when
we finally arrived at the counter.
One woman said, "Are you going to have more parking when all
this construction is complete?" The wise counter person deferred
to the owner standing nearby. The owner responded to the words
of the question rather than taking into consideration the
frustration in her voice and energy field.
His well-rehearsed dissertation gave us plenty of facts: one
parking space is lost to the construction, persons pose as
customers to try to fool the parking attendant, a plan of
parking validation, etc. But the Right-Now-in-the-Moment situation
with real-live human beings with emotions and needs was essentially
Had he listened to the information beneath the surface of
the words of his customer's question, he would have presented
us with fewer facts and perhaps said something like, "We have
several plans for improving the parking -- it's quite frustrating
right now, isn't it?" A compassionate statement such as this
would have diffused the frustration, let her know that he
heard the words of the question and more, and invited her
to take the conversation in any direction she wanted, if at
On the Airplane
On a flight to Vancouver, I appreciated viewing one flight
attendant engaging with the passengers. Here is one incident.
The attendant spilled hot water near a passenger. He quickly
grabbed napkins to mop up the mess, none of which ever touched
the passenger. When nearly done, the flight attendant looked
at her with a friendly smile and said, "gosh, that was pretty
scary, wasn't it?" He didn't gush with apologies or over-react
to the situation or blame the bumpy flight. Messes happen.
This flight attendant seemed more interested in his passenger
than in how he might be perceived -- what a concept! He is
trained to put the comfort and safety of the passengers ahead
of his own. And he demonstrated this well.
Anyplace in Life
I often observe how people listen -- or do not listen -- to
each other. Listening is an underrated and underdeveloped
skill, yet the most important skill in healthy interactions.
In a society that emphasizes outward actions, people sometimes
forget the value of the inner process.
The words you say are not nearly as important as the consciousness
from which you speak. Compassion is a consciousness which
is received more deeply than the accompanying words. Phrases
are easier to teach than compassion; however, it is the compassion
that is most important to learn to embody. When you do, the
words follow naturally and are appropriate.
© 2006, 2007 Marshall House.
Jeanie Marshall, Empowerment Consultant and Coach
with Marshall House, produces Guided Meditations on CD albums
and MP3 downloads and writes extensively on subjects related
to personal development and empowerment. Voice of Jeanie Marshall,
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