Chelle O’Connell, a new friend who just read The Go-Giver, writes in with this observation:
After 25 years of marriage, I realized that there is more than one meaning for the word “listen.”
My ex-husband frequently said, “You aren’t listening to me.” I would ask for his advice or input, and if I didn’t do as he recommended, he would say I hadn’t “listened.” What he really meant was that I hadn’t obeyed him.
When we say someone isn’t listening to us, we need to step back a moment and ask ourselves, “Is it the word listen or is it really the word obey that I am using?”
In your book, Susan was using the word “listen” in its true sense.
Beautiful insight! It’s quite true: people often have very different interpretations of what “listen” means, just as they often give very different meanings to the words “agree,” “disagree,” “talk,” “respect,” and many others.
But listening may well be one of the most underdeveloped muscles in modern culture.
Yesterday I interviewed Duane Elgin, author of The Living Universe and Voluntary Simplicity, and in the course of our talk Duane cited a source (I cannot remember the source, though it’s in my notes somewhere; if you want to know it, feel free to email me, and once I dig it up I’ll send it to you) who said that awareness and love were two words for the same thing.
If that’s so, then listening must be the beginning of loving.
What a great way to approach the world — and how sad not to.
Thank you so much and how true this is. Too often when we are “pretending” to listen (often not pretending very well, by the way) our minds are really racing to the thousand other places we would rather be or conversations we would prefer to have. While part of the challenge may be in our definition of what love is, in the soap opera world in which we live, the true deep and abiding love that I have felt and know REQUIRES my all and if that is true how can I begin to love if I won’t share that part of me that is necessary to be present in the moment to “listen” to another person. If we pretend to listen then we may only go through life pretending to love, and how terribly tragic that would be. Thank you for the powerful reminder. I sometimes catch myself not really being present in converstions I am having and tell myself that I must be a better listener. What unintentional messages might we be sending, especially to those closest to us, if we do not listen? Perhaps Shakespeare had it right in his great line from Julius Caesar, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.” Let us learn better to lend both heart and ear and listen.