The Art of Listening 2: Are You a Serial Monologist?

In last week’s post we discussed why the ego is the single most important factor that limits how far you can go, how much you can achieve.

We talked about how most people don’t really listen to anyone other than themselves, but that if you do start listening then a wider reality will reveal itself to you.

This is also when your success barriers start to evaporate.

Chances are that my claims seem exaggerated; after all, we do kind of listen to others already.

Don’t we?

Don’t we?

My contention is: no, we don’t. Not really. Most of us are non-listeners.

Non-listening comes in various categories:

The first category of non-listening is the most obvious: it is the person who mainly talks about him or herself and will only allow subjects of conversation that he or she approves of. These topics are usually directly or indirectly about him or how he wishes to see himself. If you try to change the subject or interrupt his stream of words, he simply raises his voice and talks over you. Let’s call this person the Conversational Dictator.

The second category is the one that probably most of us belong to: this is the person who politely stays quiet while their conversation partner is talking; however they’re really only pretending to listen. What they are actually doing is thinking of what to say when it’s their turn. We will call this person the Serial Monologist, because if you break down what they say, you will find a monologue divided into little snippets.

The third category of non-listening is a bit more advanced: this person actually hears what is being said a lot of the time. However, the person often finds fault with what the other person is saying, whether they keep this fault-finding to themselves or declare it openly and frankly. The trouble is that they judge what the other person is saying based upon their own standards and conception of reality. So let’s call this person the Judge.

The Judge often feels that he is the only ones who listens.To an extent he is right, because most people don’t hear other people as much as the Judge does; however at the same time he is not right, because at the end of the day he too is self-directed; he may not talk as much as other people because he has realised – at least to a certain extent – that no one is listening anyway. However he is talking to himself most of the time, passing judgement silently. The Judge wishes that others would be more like him, because then finally he would be understood, and it would be possible to have a real conversation.

The trouble with this idea is that if indeed the Judge were surrounded by other Judges, they too would be judging him based on their standards and concepts of reality, which would probably be different from his.

So what does it take to actually listen? That’s for the next post. But here’s a hint:

It’s painful.

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The Art of Listening

a good listener?

Chances are you’re not.

Please don’t take this personally; I’m not talking about you in particular. What I am referring to is that statistically most people are bad listeners, or not listeners at all.

This was a realisation that crept up on me as I worked on my new book, which is about finding your essential identity through taking action.

As I worked on the book, I took pains to describe the obstacles that you will encounter along your way.

I think this is important because I don’t believe in just focusing on the positive; I believe it is important to stay positive, but to be aware of potential obstacles and the risk of failure.

As I wrote, researched and made reference to my own experiences of achievement and failure, the obstacle that showed up chapter after chapter in a legion of different disguises was the ego.

To a great extent, we have all the tools we need to accomplish anything we want, and to go anywhere we choose. In many cases, we are offered exactly what we need every single day.

The trouble is that most of us consistently ignore these gifts. The reason for this is that we are largely under the hegemony of our ego.

What is an ego?

My definition of ego is that it is that part of us that is obsessed with our own identity. Every time someone says anything to us, our ego’s first reaction is to think, “What does this say about me?”

I don’t know if you have ever had the following experience (I know I have):

You tell someone about something that is happening in your life, or something general even. You are not making reference to them; you are talking about you, and you just feel like sharing.

And yet the person gets offended. They somehow manage to interpret what you said as being about them. Sometimes the leap from what you said to their interpretation of what you said is incredibly long.

This is just one example of the ego’s tendency to interpret everything in the world as being about itself.

The trouble is, if you see everything around you in the light of your ego, then you will live in an extremely limited world.

Paradoxically, the most selfish thing may be to let go of your ego a little bit, because the breathing space you will gain can take you to the most marvellous places. The world is far bigger than we generally think.

A highly effective doorway to this wider reality is listening.

Listening is an art. It takes practice. And the most challenging part of that practice is overcoming yourself.

But that is for another post.

Learn more about this subject here.