Having the opportunity to reflect on several years of working with individuals and groups—both young and old, I have listened for those experiences of being effective and ineffective. I’ve had plenty of both!
Looking back as recently as this past year while working in a high school, I’ve noticed a few qualities that show up consistently when being effective with people. What makes the biggest difference is the quality of my listening.
One activity I’ve guided people through is an exercise to facilitate a shift from listening to physical qualities to listening from mental/spiritual qualities. Once we complete the exercise, we then have a conversation about labels and the concept of listening through filters.
We use labels as reference points to navigate the geography of human beings. We label people in one way or another. We consciously or unconsciously transpose these labels onto our own life. These labels become the filters through which we listen. We may listen through the filter of someone being a man, women, light skinned, dark skinned, young, old, educated, foolish, learned, disabled, brilliant, arrogant, smart, generous, intense… etc.
If we are going to listen to people through filters (and we will), then let us be proactive and create filters that make a meaningful and worthwhile difference. With practice and patience, seeing and hearing someone as having confidence, courage, intelligence and creativity will move their life (and yours) forward far better than seeing and hearing someone as mentally ill, arrogant or selfish. I remind myself and encourage others to choose one or two mental qualities to use as listening filters. It might be courage and acceptance or being creative and confident. Then, no matter what the short-term result, keep practicing listening through the qualities we have chosen.
In my studies of the non-violent work of Gandhi I came across the concept of “satyagraha” that conveys my experience and effectiveness with my step-daughter over a several year period. Satyagraha is a synthesis of the Sanskrit words Satya (truth) and Agraha (holding firmly to). Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) calls forth and serves as a force for change.
Holding firmly to love and with practice and persistence, these qualities begin to show up in those I interact with, and not surprisingly, in my own life. Through the power of listening, we can generate an environment that facilitates the best in our life and the life of others.
This observation is based on training, practice, and a track record that spans many years of demonstrated proof.
I really enjoyed your message. I love what you say here, (Holding firmly to love and with practice and persistence, these qualities begin to show up in those I interact with, and not surprisingly, in my own life)Isn’t it amazing when we see others differently they show up that way…
Thank you for your words and wisdom.
And thank you Corinne for your kind remarks and also for being someone who is committed to seeing the best in others!
Hello, Chuck…I found your blog in interesting fashion – I love this template you use, Titan, and am considering using it on a blog. So here I am, reading this post. 🙂 It stopped my mind and I went to the quiet place. I call it the “existential pause” when a paradigm has been broken. (I named one of my blogs that! lol!) It’s what you said about filters actually. Of course we do listen through them. Probably we can’t get around it, except to surrender to the understanding that “we will” as you say in this post. I “realized” recently in my work struggles that what I mostly hear is what I mostly hear at home: “cats fighting over territory.” Much struggling over so little territory. It was not a good realization to get to this place. Your post reminded me that I’m doing what the ego does so often… “egoing” or making a little world out of its data. I can make a more proactive filter that helps me see people more evolved than just fighting animals. This will not necessarily be too easy. I’ve been in my job for many years, and it’s a challenge most days. But I thank you for your insight.
Thanks for your comment. No, it’s not easy. There is so much negativity in our society today that one has to be vigilant to maintain a focus on being proactive. I remind myself daily to check my filters. I am realizing the importance of having a network of proactive relationships. In spite of all the negativity in our society, there are many people working to make a meaningful difference in the world. These are relationships to treasure.