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Bad news: You cannot listen!

So I have this bad news for you today: You cannot listen!

Actually, many of us cannot, including me many a times.

Let’s do a reality test: Stop reading right now, observe yourself and write down that you’re thinking at the moment.

You’re trying to guess what am I going to talk about, or you’re thinking about menu for today’s lunch/dinner.  May be you’re thinking about your parents/kids/wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/boss or perhaps about someone or something else.

You have already disagreed to what I’m saying and you already have presumed, analyzed as well as formed an opinion about what I’m going to tell next in this post and reading further just to validate the opinion that you have created.

My history teacher has been always so boring, but so many people told that she taught so good – Crazy isn’t it?

Last time when I went in a meeting with client, I already knew that he’s going to say no and this is what happened.

Incidences like these are common to us because we always have some values, beliefs, opinions, assumtions, presumptions or judgments on mind even before the person had to utter the first word out.

Let’s do an exercise: Imagine it’s summer, you have taken leave from office, Air conditioner is on, room is perfectly cool and you’re in deep sleep. Just then you wake up with your phone’s ring tone – Its your boss calling (10 missed calls). What is the first thing you will think even before attending the call? Chances are, that you’ll already know, frustrated, that your boss is going to tell you some work to do, or you might get worried thinking that there’s something serious that your boss called you 10 times on a holiday.

No matter what you thought but you have actually formed an opinion, assumption, presumption and believe about the conversation that hadn’t even started yet.

Each time we see, hear or even get to know about someone, one or other kind of filters about that person gets created on our mind about the person and these filters then let us hear only what opinions/beliefs/presumptions are and then we cannot actually listen to what the other person wanted to say. In each conversation you experience, the other person’s words travel through the filters covering your ears before actually entering your ears and reaching your brain.

There are many different filters one can have such as:

Self-degrading: “I’m bad”, “I do not deserve” ETC

Fixing: Listening while attempting to fix their problem for them, responding only with solutions. (Statements like “Why don’t you try this or that”).

Diagnosing: Analyzing the circumstances, offer your hypothesis, and ask questions to clarify your theories.

Selecting: Listening   only what excites you, and dismiss the rest.

Knowing: Listening with the words, “I know that already,”

Efforting: Listening while trying really hard to listen and then asking a lot of questions.

Self-Referencing: Listen to hear how what they’re saying relates to you. Respond by comparing what they’re saying to something in your own life.

Defending:  Listen for how the person has misperceived the situation and respond with reframing for them.

Correcting: Listen for where the person is incorrect, and respond with corrections, improvements and/or criticism.

Judging: Listening to find out who is right or what is right.

So for example, if your friend, family member or colleague says to you “I’m sad today”, you will immediately deal with the statement from your filters. Soon as you will hear the statement, one or other of your filters shall be created and a subsequent thought shall pop up. If you are dealing with self-degradation filter, for instance, you might immediately start looking if there’s something you have done/not done that’s causing the person to be sad. Those listening with Fixing filter might immediately start advising/suggesting what should the person do to eliminate the sadness such as “Why don’t you sit down or relax if you’re feeling sad”. Those with judging filters might say “You do not look like sad”, or “I don’t think you should be sad as you’ve had such a great morning today”. People having self-referencing filter would start telling their own story like how sad they are or about a  day they were sad “I’m sad as well man, Look what happened to me”.

Significantly, all of these filters disengage you from the actual content that the person wanted to tell and you only hear what comes to you (already heard and already filtered). Many of us actually listen others for the purpose of answering/responding and the answer you have to give keeps constructing in the background while listening to the person, and most of the times that’s fixed regardless of what the other person had to tell. So in the example above, if the person telling “I’m sad” is your boss, many people will have their self-degradation filter on and the answer would be something like: “But boss, I’ve already completed my work”. It could be that your boss actually wanted to share something from his life about why is he sad, but your answers will take the conversation in an entirely different direction, completely unrelated to what he originally wanted to say.

Listening from filters is the number one reason why husbands and wives  gets into clashes, employees don’t like their bosses, daughter in-laws are  mostly unhappy with their mother in-laws ,  clients always have complains that the companies do  not listen,  so on and so forth.

The fact is that you can not listen as long as you have your filters switching on before listening to other person.

While listening from our filters, we miss what’s being said and what we listen is merely spill of the actual content which as well is already filtered. We however react/respond assuming that we heard everything that the other person said, and this reaction/response derived from filters becomes the source of disconnections, arguments, clashes and misunderstanding.

Imagine watching two movies on the same screen at once, talking on two different phones with two different people at the same time or listening 2 songs together. When you have your filters guiding you about how to react and the other person expecting a certain kind of answer from you, you virtually have two stories going at the same time and what happens is that you answer from whatever little you can hear in the middle of an already loud story told by your filters in your head.

Let’s try this small exercise:

Listen to this small clip and try spotting the content of both the stories that are being told:



You get it. If you’re like most people, you were only able to spot-in one story properly with some parts/words from other, or may be nothing at all, and this is just exactly what it happens when you listen to others while having conversation.

Fortunately, its still possible to break these filters and in some cases, at least wearing positive and empowered filters instead of negative ones.

The first step to listening without your filters is to get present to it. Each time you’re having conversation with someone, Observe what filters are you listening the person from and drop this filter immediately. Now, wear a positive filter called “supporting filter”, where you listen from the place of supporting the person, but still carefully, compassionately and patiently.

Get present to each word and each emotion that the other person is expressing to you, and listen only what the person is saying without adding any of your own meaning to it. You will notice you are able to listen something you have never heard from that person and this would definitely lead to an extraordinary conversation as well as extraordinary relationship subsequently.

So make it a game to trace your filters every time you’re having a conversation, discover the ways to drop them out and when you do that, you will have access to an amazing listening power for the first time in the life.

So, which filter do you listen others??



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