I had an interesting conversation with a friend, out of which this column arises.
We distinguished two kinds of listening: “ordinary” listening and “therapeutic” listening.
In ordinary listening, we serve our own interests: We’re in service to self or being self-serving. We listen as long as we’re interested. We listen only to satisfy our own curiosity.
The moment our curiosity is satisfied, we terminate our listening, without even noticing whose interests we’ve been serving. That fact is taken for granted and not questioned in Third Dimensionality.
In therapeutic listening, we serve the other person’s interests. We’re like a second self in that we, momentarily, suspend our concern for ourself and share the other person’s interests, see through their eyes, walk a mile in their shoes.
We can only do this of course if we’ve completed enough of our core issues that our lives don’t entirely revolve around ourselves any more. We must have “space” to listen this way.
Therapeutic listening does nothing for our interests, our enrichment, so to speak. It results in no more satisfaction for us than seeing the other person’s upset lift. It brings us nothing more than the joy of contributing to that outcome. Only those sincerely interested in hearing others can – or will – listen this way.
When I listened as a Sociology grad student, training to be a group leader, most people who had an “Aha!” moment immediately left, saying their goodbyes on the run, so to speak. They couldn’t wait to share with their loved ones what they had just seen. They often weren’t aware of how the outcome was accomplished. Therapeutic listening is invisible.
One has to be (I repeat: has to be) modest if one is to successfully do it. Coming to it seeking adventure or reward will cause a person to flag very soon.
Those filled with pride, vanity, or arrogance don’t have the space to listen therapeutically. Every inch of every space is filled up with self.
In therapeutic listening, we ask ourselves: Why is the other person telling me this? What is it they want me to see? To know? How does this piece fit into the overall puzzle they’re presenting me with?
We treat every statement they make as a chapter heading and choose which we think would be profitable to unfold. Making that determination is part of our contribution.
We also abandon any chapter we unfold if we encounter resistance. With no story about it. Just boom. Gone.
If we don’t listen to the speaker, if we’re busy talking to ourselves in our heads, framing our next question or filling out the shopping list, the other person will detect our lack of interest, and stop sharing.
Usually that’s one way that dominance was established in the old Third. The person wanting to be dominant didn’t listen. And when the other person stopped, the one wanting to be dominant gladly took the talking stick.
The person not listened to faced the prospect of unequal sharing, a play for dominance, manipulation, etc. That was ordinary life, ordinary love, and ordinary listening in the old Third Dimension and most of us put up with it.
(Continued in Part 2, below.)