“Effective listeners remember that “words have no meaning – people have meaning.” The assignment of meaning to a term is an internal process; meaning comes from inside us. And although our experiences, knowledge and attitudes differ, we often misinterpret each other’s messages while under the illusion that a common understanding has been achieved.”
— Dr. Larry L. Barker, Author & Executive Coach
I think of a few people engagements I have had in the recent past.
An office colleague comes in to discuss a problem that is likely to arise because of depressed business and enquiry levels from the Middle East markets. Our dependence on these markets has been high historically and remains crucial to meet our budgets. This upsets me. Time and again I had suggested that the division plans Sales trips to the region well in advance to renew our contacts with existing clients and meet new prospects. I sense this has not been done. A voice inside screams, “This guy is casual and lazy to plan in advance. He did not take my suggestions seriously and now when things have gone out of hand, he is running back to me with excuses. Why should I listen to him now?”
The other day, I hear that a market competitor has rolled out a series of innovative business initiatives in order to gain market stature and share. The CEO, known to me well, is a high school drop-out and has clawed up his way in the industry over the years. The inner voice returns, “There seems to be something wrong here. How on earth could this guy come up with such better initiatives than me when he has been so below me in scholastics? This is an affront and this guy, with such initiatives, is trying to undermine me.”
I am at this workshop and I meet an ex junior colleague who left our company some years back. I get to know that in the interim, he did his Masters and is now an Assistant Professor at a Business school. During his presentation, he waxes eloquent on Leadership and the need to envision a future that excites. While I cannot find fault with what he says, my earlier perception about him as a mere desk worker seems to stop me from embracing the concepts he speaks of. That voice inside whispers, “How could this guy, so much younger and less experienced than me, know more and teach me leadership concepts? Accepting and acknowledging what he says would put me down. I can’t do that! I need to think of how I could disagree with him.”
Do you see how that voice inside me is my Already- Always listening?
Do you see how my Already- Always listening has led me to have preconceived interpretations of what is being said even before it is said?
Do you see how such interpretations create judgments and opinions in me even before the other guy has opened his mouth?
Do you see how these judgments and opinions constrain and limit my listening, my thoughts, my actions and even the possibilities I am willing to consider?
It is as if I get onto rails which then allow me to think and act in only set ways. So when my colleague approached me to discuss what could be various options available to improve business from middle East markets, my reaction was to blame him for not having considered my earlier suggestions. In the second case, rather than critically reviewing the business initiatives of the competitor to learn and initiate effective response, my reaction was one of non-acceptance and making the competitor CEO ‘vanish’. And in the final case, rather than gaining insight from my ex-colleague’s presentation, I had closed my mind to much else except look for logic to make him wrong in my own perception.
Dear Reader, can you identify similar experiences in your life? If so, do you see how our Already-Always listening constrains and restricts us from achieving that big picture empowered way of being that we envision?
What is it that sustains such Already-Always listening and the related interpretations within us? This happens because almost all of us are not even aware of the distortion that exists between what is said to us and what we end up listening. Since we are not aware, we also cannot comprehend how our interpretations may be distorting our perceptions. So we end up assigning disparate causes to our relationship breakdowns and suboptimal performance but never the core issue of how our way of being and acting have being negatively impacted from the distortion that landed for us in our brains based on the Already-always listening and interpreting we did. We then try and ‘fix’ this false cause, which is really an effect, leading us to go through life trying to put out one fire after another.
Does this look or sound familiar?
So what could we do to distinguish and become aware of our Already-Always listening so that it loses its ability to run us and our lives?
In learning…………. Shakti Ghosal
Acknowledgement: “Being A Leader And The Effective Exercise Of Leadership:
An Ontological / Phenomenological Model” by Werner Erhard, Independent & Michael Jensen, Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration Emeritus, Harvard Business School.
38 thoughts on “My Already- Always listening”
This post truly spoke to me. I do have a hard time listening which I do need to improve. Sometimes I’m thinking to much, multitasking to much, or may be talking to much I failed to receive the actual message. Never too late to begin improving though. Thank you. All the best to you and your family.
I was having issues with someone and realized that I had stopped really listening to her and took everything she said as a criticism. I had to change my mindset and force myself to have an open mind when talking to her, so I understand where you are coming from.
What you did in terms of changing your mindset came from the awareness that you had put aspects of your past experiences and judgment as a filter in between what the other person was saying and what was landing for you. Holding such an awareness is really the key to mindset change and how things occurs for us. As the occurring changes, so do our thoughts and actions that flow from that. So, well done!
Thank you for taking the time out to stop by and comment.
This is such a timely post. You, and your wise readers have analyzed a facet of interactions critical not only in professional relationships, but even more so in family ones. Many of us return “home” this weekend to spend time with extended families. And just as many of us find difficult relationships to navigate within our family group. Your observations here, and the further elaboration of your community offer insight into how we might approach all of our interactions with openness and a fresh perspective. When we realize how we pre-judge our interactions with family members based on our past experiences with them, and the rich tapestry of emotions we have carried about these relationships throughout our lives, we might find an opportunity to listen with fresh and open perceptions. To see each individual as they truly present themselves in a given moment, and to encounter each person with an open heart and full attention would allow us to transform/transmute our relationships into some much richer and deeper than it has ever been before. This is especially important in our interactions with the younger members of our family. It is useful to listen to the wisdom of our children and not discount them as too young or inexperienced to have useful perspectives and information. In my experience, it is our emotional body constructing these filters and barriers which cause us to miss another’s meaning as much as it is our mental body. Bringing awareness, silencing our judging mind, recognizing our own “triggers,” and allowing for the possibility of our own mistaken perceptions opens up the possibilities for encounters and deeper understanding. Thank you for your eloquent post Shakti, and for the conversation you have made possible here. WG
What a wonderful and all -encompassing comment and perspective! I doubt if it could have been better put! Your comment deserves to be a post in itself and I do hope other readers feel enriched by reading it, the way I have.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write and post, I truly appreciate.
You are very kind, Shakti. After a lifetime spent in teaching, I’m very sensitive to this issue. And it is especially important for parents and elders to listen to our children and their insights without discounting them because of their youth and inexperience. Namaste, WG
I experience the Already-Always Listening the most with family members. The end result is to stifle growth and satisfaction in those relationships because I am not allowing those people (or myself) to mature and change. Thanks for the reminder that we can set the tone for success or setbacks.
So have you tried to find out what is it that makes you get into a “Already-Always Listening” mode with family members? Is this because of the familiarity you hold about them? Or is it because of over-attachment? Or something else?
As you unearth the core of your behaviour, you are sure to gain access to changing it. As you do that, how would you see the quality of your relationships?
Thank you for a great comment. I appreciate.
Brilliant post…too many times I have allowed preconceived ideas run rampant in my mind, and hindering the decision made. Furthermore, I see it in a company I work with (and want to succeed), how there is a certain amount of ‘group-think’ that has taken place with upper-management and the ideas of some of their young talent goes to waste.
This leads back to your opening quote ~ “words have no meaning – people have meaning.”
This post is a nice humbling post, but also a bit scary as fixing these distorted perceptions is not easy, however you do mention something that makes it easier: learning. Perhaps going into encounters (or thought processes) with the idea of learning and resolving takes away the preconceived thoughts. Well done ~
Thank you, that’s a great comment.
I am curious to know some more more about your company, specially about what you mention about your upper management ‘group think’. My sense is that since the perspective is being held by a group, could it be based on some additional information that they know or the company future plans they are unable to disseminate to the team and thereby failing to implement? Could it also be to to differing personality traits with the management being excessively task focused and failing to acknowledge the social and reflective needs of the rest of the team?
I suppose in this case, the executive group becomes comfortable with each other after working together for so long ~ and in a sense becomes comfortable with their work and decision making process. They listen to each other, and almost always with agreement…thus missing true constructive thinking. They do not listen to the subtle changes in the market (or company), and grow deaf to opinions/thoughts from people outside this group, and people outside this group is often where the real market information should be derived.
That is indeed a great insight and I acknowledge for being able to see it.
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Living in the me generation of selfies and self promotion I find it’s easy to get lost in ourselves and to stop listening with an open mind and open heart. I find that yoga helps keep me grounded, as does thought provoking posts such as this one!
This was a lovely post with deep meaning. I agree with your idea of learning more about people. Not judging, letting time pass and first impressions go. People may be having a bad day when you meet them or hear their unkind words or see their angry actions. Great post with meaning here, Shakti
Thank you Robin. Delighted to know that you liked the post.
Indeed, retaining the awareness that our ‘Already- Always listening’ creates that prejudging wall between the other person and us, limiting our ability to truly see and listen all that is being communicated and thereby constraining possibilities for us, can be wonderfully liberating and empowering.
Hi Shakti …
The beautiful thing is that you are willing to examine your actions and change. Others are less flexible and I believe they really miss out on making good connections. I believe that you can learn something from every one.
When I was working as a communications terminal operator (a typist entering data), I felt that several people looked down on me because they felt their job was more important and that I didn’t have a college education. (At the time, I was going to college part-time.)
Chances are, the only way someone can change how he or she is perceived is to move on because some only carry that first impression around with them. Sad. I vowed never to be that person.
I agree with you. While I love words/language, it is so easy to misinterpret meaning. That can only improve when we really listen to one another.
Thank you for your presence.
The willingness to examine one’s actions and change can happen only when one becomes aware as an observer. I have found a good access to do that is by considering yourself as a ‘Clearing’ where your entire world, your relationships. others and you yourself occur. As we build our muscle to do this, we loosen the attachment to the predictable reactions of the person we have wound up becoming.
Thank you for a lovely comment. I appreciate.
I think these are two of the most difficult things to set aside when practicing mindfulness: preconceptions and judgments. Yet it is the goal of mindfulness to simply receive another in that moment, remaining open to ‘whatever comes.’ If I was in a corporate situation with all the pressures from the heirarchy, it would be far more difficult than it is in my simple island life. Aloha, Shakti.
You are absolutely right. Our ‘Already-always listening and interpreting’ are part of the many perceptual constraints that we hold. This then becomes a lens held in front of us, distorting, shaping and even blanking out aspects which are being communicated to us. So clearly, these detract from mindfulness which in fact, if practiced, builds our muscles to fight perceptual constraints.
And Bela, this really has little to do with being in a corporate situation or otherwise.It is really all about who who we are wound up being.
Blessings and thank you for your presence here.
I remember the first time I realized I didn’t interpret the spoken word as others around me did–and that mattered. The first part I could easily ascribe to my ‘superiority’ (perceived, of course), but when I understood that life was about perception, not reality, well, that was a game-changer.
And that, I am sure, would have been a transformative realization, Dear Jacqui.
Once we realize how life occurs for us is really based on our perceptions and how that shapes and distorts what we hear, we see and we interpret, we start gaining back control in terms of how we could respond and how indeed more possibilities exist beyond what we might be considering.
That’s a valuable insight, Jacqui, thank you for bringing it up here.
Hi Shakti , your post offers an insight many people are blissfully unaware of and go through life as such ; some are aware but still ramble on , either unable to counter it fully or partially succeeding in muscling it in , while a residual minority is keenly aware and has the mechanism to control it and keep it tethered within harmless confines ; these are the thought leaders and moulders of public opinion . It is not only “my already – always listening” but also “my already – always seeing” because the regulated intake is not just limited to our listening but also our seeing; we listen and see only what we want to or are equipped for , which is why the faculty of listening and observation varies from person to person ; it is a variable defined by ego and capacity . So , summing up , that is what we all need to be working at , our ego and capacity . Listening fully and learning from it is a process requiring enormous humility ; only a humble mind can fully listen and benefit from the intake . The learning that takes place through fuller listening and seeing is what develops our capacity . Equally enjoyable is the discussion your post has generated vide comments of our friends Hariod , Sue , Jannat and VK…best wishes…raj
That’s a great perspective.
Thank you for bringing in the aspect of ‘already-always seeing’. Indeed this is very relevant and controlled experiments have in fact found that what we see is really a function of ( as you say) what we want to see or what we have been’told’ to see.This ‘telling’ could also be through the lens of a context that we might be holding for an unfolding situation.
Yes, our ‘Already-always’ occurring , be it through listening, seeing or interpreting does get shaped by our ego.
You have also brought in a second variable of ‘capacity’. But what really is capacity? We can hold differential levels of capacity for different situations and times. To me this really becomes a function of how something occurs for us. It is this occurring that influences and shapes our thoughts and consequently actions. As we realise this, we also gain access to how we could change the occurring for us as also others and thereby change the thoughts, actions and thereby capacity.
Dear Rajagopal, I truly appreciate your taking the time to comment here and join the discussions.
Many thanks for this eloquent and insightful article Shakti; I greatly appreciate the manner in which you have woven anecdote into your philosophical musings. Learning is always more effectively realised when applied in direct experience, and of this I am sure you would agree.
“What is it that sustains such Already-Always listening and the related interpretations within us?” You have, of course, answered this question yourself already; though if I may, I can offer an additional perspective which may add further texture to your fine and lucid points.
You say, in essence, that it is a deficiency in our awareness that blocks our seeing of what is going on here. We misinterpret the concepts projected out of one mind and reformulate them in our own, and after our own proclivities. Yet what are these proclivities? In such instances, I think it’s fair to say, our tendencies to seek out certainty and exert control come into play.
In your first anecdote, the thinking here issues from a desire to have the Middle East markets perform in accord with projected certainties; in other words, they should perform according to expectations, yet the budgets don’t correspond with the actuality of that region, and so the attempt at projecting certainty is demonstrated to be fallacious in nature. Distress arises when the actuality fails to accord with the projected certainty, and also when the attempt at exerting control fails.
In your second anecdote, the certainty finds its place in the expectations as to the competitors capabilities, all of which certainties are based on now redundant knowledge – his former scholastic achievements. The control comes in seeking to oppose the potential undermining that the situation holds.
In your third anecdote, there is certainty of your own leadership capabilities as compared to those of your former junior colleague. Also, there is certainty that your age and experience imbue you with this assumed superiority. The control comes in seeking to oppose what is apparent through trying to think of ways that your former colleagues arguments can be dismantled.
With gratitude and respect to you Shakti.
That’s a great perspective you have brought in. To be frank, to get my head around what you have offered, I had to read your comment twice 🙂
So what is the Certainty we seek? And what makes us seek it? I believe we seek a ‘Certainty’ which fits into the model of reality that we have created for ourself about everything we see out there, our past learnings and experiences, our relationships with everything out there, animate and inanimate, and our perspective of the future. And the reason we seek such a certainty is because since it fits in with all we perceive, into our ‘Wall of bricks’ so to speak; it allows the comfort of the known vis- a vis the discomfort of the unknown.
And of course, what we ‘Know’ and feel comfortable about, we tend to control.
So, as I see your perspective of Certainty and Control in this manner, I am also able to fit it in into my own “Wall of Bricks” relating to ‘Already-always listening’.
Thank you for this great discussion and allowing me to think in this manner. I truly appreciate.
Thank you Shakti; and yes, projecting ‘certainty’ and attempting to exert ‘control’ are largely attempts the pattern-seeking mind makes in order to resolve it’s own understandings and workload as it navigates the entire mind/body system securely through life. In developing awareness, we may come to see this with a healthy perspective – a kind of aerial view – which can still utilise these functions whilst at the same time understanding their limitations, vulnerability and level of appropriateness.
All best wishes to you Shakti.
I agree Hariod. Thank you for participating here in this great discussion.
Great Post Shakti.. And it is so easy to get caught up with the Always Listening selves.. We often fail to understand how our minds have become trained into narrow roads of thinking, as we judge with preconceived ideas of our expectations..
Often those expectations are drilled into us from early childhood… We have to be top of our tree in order to succeed.. We need to buckle down and work hard to get to the top.. And No one can do a job better than we can, and apportioning blame when things slide out of our control.
Most of our Always Listening Selves are the thoughts of others which we have mimicked over the years.. Though often we would never even admit to such.. Sometimes we are not even aware of how we have developed such thoughts.. We take them as being natural…
Our Ego tells us that we are right, and if by our conditioning we are brought up to feel superior, then others who fail to meet our expectations are deemed inferior and we treat them accordingly. Often we do it without even realising it.
I commend you, as You answered your own faults in failing to listen to your ex colleague as you said “And in the final case, rather than gaining insight from my ex-colleague’s presentation, I had closed my mind to much else except look for logic to make him wrong in my own perception.”..
Often we do not LISTEN at all to what others are saying.. We are too busy listening to our Egotistical selves.. So we do close our minds..
Yes I too have been guilty.. When I was in training in Textiles.. Its not until you realise that by Listening to Others ideas, problems, and ideas, that you find solutions much faster.. Co-operation and learning to pool knowledge rather than think we ‘Know it all’ works wonders..
When we learn to stop putting labels upon each other and judging a book by its cover rather than its contents then we are moving forward slightly..
But we have been so indoctrinated in being self opinionated that I think we still have a long long way to go Shakti before we learn to co-operate fully, and share knowledge instead of competing.. We think and measure success by Profits.. We think by holding tight information, ideas, patents, etc we will succeed where others will fail..
IF this world is to succeed at all .. We have to learn than this method of thinking has to change.. We will see that our Profits, Business’s, which revolves around monetary gain.. Our Banking systems revolve around monetary gain.. Our supermarkets revolve around monetary gain.. Stocks Shares, all about success or failure..All of these will mean nothing..
For the real Value in life we are ignoring.. We are ignoring the value of other Human Beings as we exploit and cause suffering… We allow our Ego self to dominate our head thinking, And we have failed to listen to Hearts..
It seems to me Shakti.. When you wrote this.. You listened to your heart! ❤ All I can say is Keep listening to its Beat 🙂
Bless you my friend, and sorry again for allowing my heart to rule my head as I allow my thoughts to come to your page..
Thank you for your kind acknowledgement.
As always, your comment is so all inclusive that it befits to be a separate post in its own right.You are so right; it is our preconceived notions, judgments and the way we have ‘wound up being’ that so puts us onto our set, predictable and reactive ways of thinking. So much so that rational and better thoughts and responses no longer occur for us.
I love that sentence of yours, and I quote, “…IF this world is to succeed at all .. We have to learn than this method of thinking has to change”. So how and where we need to start. I believe it needs to be with our own selves. As Mahatma Gandhi had said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.To remain steadfast with this aspect, we need to bring to bear our mental muscle to embrace the foundational blocks of Integrity, Authenticity, embracing something bigger than oneself and be the change in the matter.
How could we enthuse those around us in this regard?
Thank you and with blessings to you too Sue!
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Yes this sentence of Gandhi’s ” Be the Change that you wish to see in the world” I have written into the bottom of my email script .. How could we enthuse others? .. Well maybe that could be a post for both of us Shakti.. 🙂
Many Blessings your way..
That’s a great suggestion. Let’s do it!
Looking back, I’ve encountered similar situations. I’ve felt the frustration of my ideas being ignored (or submitted under someone else’s name!) I’ve also missed opportunities to learn from those who I believed couldn’t possibly know more than me. It’s good to practice recognizing this and to keep an open mind. We only become better when we learn, regardless of the source.
So true. Do you see that as we practice such recognition, we start gaining access to what is fuelling our ‘Already-always listening’ and then doing something about that? That is sure to shift us away from ‘Reacting’ to ‘Responding’.
Thank you for taking the time to comment. I appreciate.
Ah yes Shakti….We must remain AWARE of our thinking at all times and silence the voice when it enters in. I have always envisioned it like an alien in a control room in my brain. It sits behind a massive control board of buttons and flashing lights. It is surrounded by walls of glass. It is laughing as it looks at me because it enjoys running my brain, but now it panics. I have cut off the electricity and put a lock on the door so it is stuck inside and unable to do what it desires. We must all find the strength in the moment to stop whatever we are saying or thinking if we are off track and rephrase them. It requires us being able to admit we are wrong and be willing to correct ourselves. It is insidious as it creeps its way in to every nook and cranny if we allow it. You are staying on top of it my friend and catching it in action! Well done 🙂 Blessings to you….VK
As usual, you are first of the block on the post! I love that envisioning of yours.Particularly when you write, and I quote, ‘… cut off the electricity and put a lock on the door so it is stuck inside and unable to do what it desires.’
But the challenge to my mind remains with our Already-Always listening as it often masquerades as our voice of logic and reason.When that happens, we end up listening to it. Have you experienced this VK? So my question remains, ‘What is it we need to do to be able to differentiate between our real voice of reason and faith and our Already-Always listening masquerading as such?’
Thank you so much for your very thought-provoking comment. I truly appreciate.
Other than using our awareness wisely and remaining on guard, I think the next best thing is to learn how to go with the flow and show forgiveness to ourselves. We seem to try and complicate life when the answers are usually found in the simple things. We have over thought our world into its current position, something tells me we get out of this mess by learning how to feel honestly again…I hope you have a great week Shakti. Snow flakes blowing around here in the sky. Winter quickly
approaches..Blessings to you…VK 🙂
That’s a great perspective VK.Indeed, over time , we tend to jettison ‘simplicity’ seeing it as a poor option as we are conditioned to “Overthink our world” as you have pointed out. I am sometimes left wondering as to who is the controller. Do we control our thoughts or do our thoughts control us?
Your concluding line brings to mind that famous poem by Robert Frost.
“Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.”
I leave you to enjoy the purity and blessings of a lovely winter.
Such a great poem!! Thanks for reminding me of that 🙂 Well we do know now that our thoughts are often controlled by Government as well as corporate America who analyzes our every shopping move and how to get our attention. Learning the human mind has been on their do list for a long time now. I like to think we control our thoughts as best we can! Take care Shakti…VK