LISTENING AND QUIET

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Have you ever listened to someone else purely for the purpose of understanding them – listening almost as a psychologist or psychiatrist does – listening purely out of interest in the speaker?  
I’ve noticed various types of listening recently:

  • Listening to refute: taking in information so you can assemble your own argument
  • Listening to join: taking in information so you can provide your own similar experience.  I think Tyra Banks is supposed to do this a lot on Top Model.  Except her similar stories have nothing to do with what the other person just said.
  • Listening to accumulate information, to store away for later, when it might come in handy
There are probably more.  I’ve been stepping back lately, and just noticing patterns of listening.  I’m not sure if it’s necessarily wrong to listen for the reasons I’ve just listed, I’m just saying those might be the more common ways to listen, while actually hearing the person and what they’re saying may not be.

Conversely, truly being heard and understood may be a basic (psychological, not to be confused with food, clothing, etc.) human need.  I’ve heard it described as “psychological air.”* I wonder how often this need is met.  And what people do get that need met.

In a more extreme case, I’ve been listening to the people at the back of the bus – the crazies that can still afford bus fare.  Not intentionally – they’re just loud. They have no censor. Sometimes they chatter – and their chatter has the feel of a conversation, just with themselves. They talk like there’s someone on the other end of the conversation. It’s like they’re meeting this need they have, this need to be heard and understood, but just in a very unconventional way.

It’s always interesting to notice people who either can’t or won’t self-censor, because they sometimes show a part of human nature that is raw and unguarded, possibly a part of themselves that other people normally wouldn’t allow to be seen.  Except for the one guy who got on the bus for poon, and started saying out loud how he wanted to sleep with every girl on the bus – every single one – and then a small circle of space started to widen around him.  Except for that guy.  I wonder if the discomfort that you sometimes feel, when that person near you begins to talk to himself, isn’t partly because it’s a distant echo of a need that is normally kept hidden.

* Stephen Covey

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