Monday, May 12, 2014

Tips for Living Wicca: Practice Listening

I remember my dad used to always refused to drive anywhere in the snow-- he'd complain about the roads being slippery, how slow the car moves, how other drivers drive like maniacs, the salt on the roads ruining his car paint job, how he hates the cold, etc. until one day I went across the street in the snow to wait for the bus and it never came. I was frantic about being late for work because I was opening-- but even though I left super early the bus failed me. So I begged my dad to drive me in-- it was only 10 minutes away.

He finally gave in, halfway there he pulled over, had a panic attack and couldn't drive anymore. I had to walk the rest of the way, and he walked home and picked up the car 2 days later. All those times he was telling me why he couldn't drive in the snow, I wasn't really hearing him. It was more than just an inconvenience-- he was seriously afraid of driving in the snow. 

There is a difference between listening and hearing. Listening is the actual attempt to hear; hearing is getting the message. Sometimes we are passive listeners-- we take in the sound and words, but we're too busy judging them, or formulating a response, or thinking about some distraction. When we listen passively, we don't always hear. 

Active listeners don't just take in the sounds; they focus on the words. They turn off the internal monologue for the time being so they can absorb what's being given to them. They don't just focus on their meaning, but try to understand the user's meaning (since language is arbitrary, what a word means to you is not always what the person speaking it means-- nuances and all). An active listener listens for the unspoken message.

My Tip for You Today:

Practice active listening today. Don't talk much-- listen to others instead. Ask open-ended questions if people seem reluctant to talk. 

If someone says something you disagree with or even that you despise, try not to have a knee-jerk reaction. Hold your own thoughts at bay and listen to theirs. Try to think of where they're coming from (and try to be objective-- don't assume the worst. For example, if someone disagrees with your politics, don't assume it's because they're uncaring, or selfish, or just plain uneducated-- try to really hear their ideas and understand the objective thought processes and motivations behind such an opinion). 

Don't fall into the trap of arguing, defending and justifying your own view today. It's okay if someone doesn't know your point of view. Let it go. It's okay if you don't dump all your feelings on their head. Let it go. Stop thinking you need to educate them, and realize you have an opportunity to learn something (even if it's just to understand people with different experiences and opinions other than your own). 

If you pride yourself on having an open mind, use it, and listen.

Do you consider yourself an "active listener"? Tell us how you do it!

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