Saturday, July 01, 2006

a forgotten art?


Several unrelated events triggered these musings...the first a snippet of fluff from a freebie newsrag I read on the ferry, dispensing my horrorscope for the day, stressing: "You must resolve relationship issues through communication, not by worrying alone or trying to find all the answers in your own head"

The second jumped out from a conference paper I downloaded that contained this profound quote ..."There are two kinds of listeners: Those who listen, and those who are waiting to speak."

The third dot joining these points in a neat little line came from an over-amorous man who simply refused to accept that I didnt want to go out with him. I tried to explain why, but his arrogant ego would not give me a gap either way...talking over me, interrupting me, getting shitty, attacking me, etc. These were the very reasons why I didnt want to go out with him. At 48, this man had little relationship skills and lacked the basic awareness to understand how his behaviour was sabotaging his love life! The inability to listen is one of the biggest causes of communication and relationship breakdown.

Hell, I am not perfect at this stuff myself...but based on how I have stuffed up or been at the receiving end of it, here's how I think stuff gets in the way.

1. The first act of love is to listen. Actively, totally in the zone of the other... absorbing, hearing.
2.Poor listeners are hard to have relationships with. Half the time is spent trying to clarify, remedy, nurse egos, manage perceptions, undo damage or feeling irrelevant because they're not listening anyway.
3. The above quote is incomplete. There's a third type of listener (or non-listener if you will!). Those that have so much baggage and self-esteem issues they cannot suspend judgement, analysis, prejudice or see beyond their own world. They project this onto what is being said, distort meaning and ruin honesty and openness- the very ingredients of trust and intimacy.
4. Modern technology is a wonderful aid to communication, except in times of conflict. Relationship difficulties have to be resolved eyeball to eyeball. Forget SMS, online chat, email. If someone doesnt want to talk things through, there is no respect for the relationship, commitment to the other and it suggests a lack of emotional maturity. Can a relationship like that work?
5. On the positive side, listening is a magnetic thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Listening well and responding appropriately is the highest perfection in the art of conversation.

Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and a modern-day Shakespeare has this to say on the subject: "You should listen to your heart, not the voices in your head."...and from The Land Before Time, this wisdom:"Let your heart guide you. It whispers, so listen closely."

Sounds so simplistic, and it is. If only Mr Groening could tell how to tell the difference between the voices of the heart and the voices of the head. But...perhaps thats precisely the point! Silence your own voices so that you can hear!

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