Saturday, 9 May 2015

Listening As Though The Other Person Might Be Right

By James Burgess

Listening as though the other person might be right is a skill we can learn that enriches our quality of life.

What is right or wrong, good or bad, is so often a local, current opinion that is nothing more than an aspect of normal behaviour at a particular time in a particular place. In other words, morality ethics, customs, laws and even the courtesy of good manners are things that vary geographically and from age to age. It is worth having this in mind when listening to the views of another person and think whether their values reflect their age and environment as much as your own opinions reflect yours. Factors such as income levels, racial origin, birthplace and time of life are primary in the formation of belief and customs. You deserve and win respect if you show respect to another person whose words and actions speak of these differences.

The span and depth of our personal experiences in life are measured subjectively -one man's ceiling is another woman's floor - and yet, most of us want to reach further, whatever that means to us. Of course this requires us to adopt new perspectives, to try out new things, and such things very often come to us first as rather strange, often challenging viewpoints. The first flinch against something new is the automatic reflex of self-protection, and this needs to be carefully overcome if we are to expand our horizons in a healthy way. Being open-minded shows itself in our willingness to take on new ideas, learn skills, to meet new people and avoid dogma and prejudice.

When someone is talking to you and you are inwardly resistant and tend to disagree, then on some level they can feel that. It will probably diminish their ability to express their thoughts clearly and confidently and indeed can actually quite significantly influence not only how they speak but also what they say. However, if your listening attention is warm and supportive, then rapport is established and a sense of harmony can pervade the atmosphere between you. Their message then will reflect the goodwill you radiate, and it will be more positive and more likely to please you.

This is no small thing. If we want to make the world a better place, then we will all need to learn how to think and speak much more positively, and therefore learn to listen to others in such a way that their thoughts and words are more inclined to be positive. A tricky task! Simply disagreeing and correcting a person's negative expression is quite likely to reinforce it. Of course realization needs to occur, (and you may feel constrained and obliged to facilitate this awakening!) yet it has to be gently managed.

There is quite obviously a process taking place between speaker and listener that can be co-creating. As we have said, the listener's quality of attention has an effect upon the message in form as well as essence. It goes without saying that the speaker's words will touch the listener. Both are involved, each influencing the other and significantly each influencing the message itself. Let's think about this: it runs against the idea that an individual has totally responsibility (or indeed can take total credit) for what they say.

Perhaps a degree more humility is appropriate when we talk, so that we are ready to acknowledge the importance of a good listener sharing in the process of voicing the wisdom gems we deliver (and yet think of as our own!) Also when listening we could take a little more responsibility for what is said to us, and perhaps more importantly, how it is said - with respect, with anger, with contempt - because "it takes two to tango".

There is of course another good reason to listen carefully, respectfully, warmly and open-mindedly to another person - there's a good chance that they might actually have something of value for us to hear.

These ideas follow the 7 Words model  that all things are basically expressions of the seven fundamentals: No, Hello, Thanks, Bye, Please, Sorry, Yes. See if you can recognise them in the 7 stages above.

About The Author
Free Questionnaires and Mini Courses are available on the 8 Words website (, interactive fun with the 'satisfaction index calculator' at and free seminars are offered for participants at the UK alternative family holiday experience of Unicorn Camps (

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