A little while ago, Cathy and I had been talking about the blog she’s been writing. Just now, she read me a sentence that she had written and asked me if she had written it in the same way/words she had said to me minutes earlier. It was ’basically’ the same message she had just told me only a few minutes before but, I was unable to tell her if she wrote it exactly how she had verbally communicated it. In that moment, I realized that I hadn’t been truly ‘here’, when we were speaking. Even though I had been ‘listening’, and a participant in the conversation, I couldn’t repeat the words she had previously spoken because, I had, in my mind, summed up, defined, and capsulized what she had said, basically, as a ‘topic’ addressed in the conversation. This is how my mind ‘works’. This is what it has been trained to do. This is how I trained it.
In my job, I talk to a lot of people, both in person and on the telephone, with questions, or problems, or simply needing information/instruction in how to accomplish a specific task, or what procedure to follow, or how to find information. And, I have trained myself, over the years, to pick up key words, early in the conversation, so I can determine the nature of the need of the person on the other end of the phone line and, start the process of resolving whatever the ‘issue’ is, and meet whatever perceived need the person has at that moment. So, even though I hear, and may respond to, the words being spoken by the other person, I’m already somewhere else, accessing stored information, instead of remaining ‘here’, listening to the other person as equal and one with me, without anticipating what they’re going to say next, based on what they just said, formulating and preparing my response, and even judging their level of knowledge or understanding about the topic at hand – in my mind – before they finish speaking.
Early in my career in management, there were seminars and classes on customer support where this was taught/labeled as a skill. This is how you keep your conversations short, and to the point. This is how you make the customer happy – resolving their issue quickly and completely so they will ‘feel good’ about you/your department/your company. This approach/technique appealed to the ‘people pleaser’ in me. Get it done ‘now’ – one and done. It was all about time and, as we all know, time = $money$.
Also, it fell right in line with how I was raised/trained in my family. As a ‘people pleaser’, it fell right in line with that training to ‘do things right the first time’ and, ‘don’t waste time’. I never wanted to hear my father say that I had done something ‘half-assed’ – meaning, that I hadn’t been responsible enough to do it right the first time. As a child, when all I really cared about or wanted to do was to go outside and play, I don’t recall ever having to go back inside to finish or, re-do, my chores. When I made my bed, cleaned my room, or the bathroom, or the kitchen, or whatever, when I was done, it was done. I slept in the top bunk bed and, most of the time, my bed was made before my feet hit the floor. I wanted my time to play so, I figured, it was best to just get it done and do it right the first time, so there wouldn’t be any reason to interrupt my play time, doing or, re-doing, something I had to do anyway. I received praise and recognition from my parents for being this way, as well. I proved myself to be ‘responsible’. I also realized that, by being/acting/behaving ‘this way’, I was allowed more ‘freedoms’, such as going over to friends’ houses to play, than some of my siblings. So, there was a reward for the behavior of ‘not wasting time’ long before I ever even thought about working. Most of the time, I’d be ready to ‘get things done’ before my mom or dad was finished telling me what they wanted me to do. I’d get the gist of the message and, was ready to resolve the issue ‘right now’.
This same ‘listening’ behavior was further developed when I was in school. I have to admit that, as a youngster, I didn’t have the same zeal to ‘get things done’ when it came to schoolwork. School was basically a nine-month interruption of my play time. I was much more interested in what we were going to do at recess than what was going on in the classroom. But, by the time I reached high school, I wasn’t real fast at taking notes so, I’d just write down key words to remember so I’d get the general message – the ‘Cliff-Notes’ version of whatever was being said. As long as I could make good enough grades to keep my parents happy, I wasn’t as focused on the specifics as to gain a general understanding so I could pass tests.
So, this way of listening – hearing words being spoken to me without really listening to all of what is/was being said – has been a part of who I am for a long, long time. And, you know what? It’s bullshit. Any being that is communicating with me/us ‘deserves’ my/our attention.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to not truly listen when other people talk to me.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to not remain ‘here’, in breath, giving attention to another who is trying to communicate with me.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to judge another based on the words they are speaking.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to ‘think’ about my response before the other person has finished speaking.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to anticipate what another will, or might, say in a future moment, based on my judgment and interpretation of what they are speaking in this moment.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to not consider another’s words important enough to have my full attention.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to be distracted within thoughts about knowledge and information while another is speaking to me.
I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to believe that what I have to say is important and deserving of another’s attention but, what another has to say doesn’t deserve the mine.
As I am one and equal with all others, it’s time for me to Stop this bullshit, and ‘give’ my attention to others as I would want them to ‘give’ their attention to me. I commit myself to remain ‘here’, in breath, giving my full attention to others as they speak to me, as me, as equals.