November 2011

Creative Communication: Learning to Listen, Part 3

So far in this series, we’ve confronted the degree to which the way we listen to (and interact with) people is shaped and limited by certain developed filters, and explored some of the most common types of filters. Now, I’d like to take a look at what this all makes available, and how we can “upgrade” our ability to listen.

When we are unaware of our own filters, the constraints on our ability to listen are invisible to us and we are left mistaking “our world” for “the” world. In this condition, we are likely to be ineffective in our actions, not to mention completely confused about the actual source of the problem. So our efforts to change are inevitably unproductive, and sometimes counterproductive, as they are cultivated from symptoms instead of the root cause.

So what does it take to free ourselves up from all this?

The first part is simply to notice it as it’s happening; simple awareness is the access point. See, what we don’t distinguish, what stays hidden in the background, runs us. When we see these self-imposed limits in action, when we see them for what they are, their grip is loosened and we are freed up and able to interact with life naturally and effectively.

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Challenging Times

Would we all agree that it is easy to label the economic and social environment in which we exist “Challenging Times”?

As I witness the level of distress that so many people are feeling these days, I find myself torn between participating in the upset, and not. I find that it serves me not at all to participate in and perpetuate the idea that the circumstances we face limit opportunity.

Clearly, it could be said that opportunity is not what it once was or where it once was. And that alone is for many, evidence that opportunity is either limited or missing entirely. I do not concur. I will add that this evidence, taken as proof, prevents us from seeing alternative approaches that may yield new and interesting projects, goals, solutions, achievements and successes.

Consider the concept of infinity. I think back to elementary school mathematics where we learned first of the concept of infinity. The set “whole numbers” included the numbers: 0, 1, 2, 3 and so on forever and the set, “natural numbers” as we were taught in Mrs. Ueda’s 3rd grade class included the numbers: 1, 2, 3, and so on, forever. When we were asked, “which set has more numbers?”, it gave me great joy to recognize that the answer was neither. They are both infinite. And infinite has no limits even if it starts in a different place. So the set, “whole numbers over 5000”, still has the same number of elements as “whole numbers”: it is infinite.

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