How to Inspire Change by Listening to People Rather than Talking to Them
We don’t listen enough
Were you aware that not many people know how to properly listen? I know because I used to be in that bracket. Listening for me had always been in the past, and exercise for me to answer what was being said to me on the surface, and not properly take in what was being talked about. You can see it on Facebook as a prime example, people answer each other regularly but they don’t actually concentrate on listening to other people, only what they themselves are going to say.
Listening. It’s something that is really griping me right now; that I want to have deep and meaningful conversations with others but not many people that I know are interested in learning about the deeper aspects to me, to talk about such would just cause confusion. For me a friendship is give and take. I thrive best when people are just as interested in my life as I am theirs. This is why I don’t have many friends. But I feel that’s somehow standard – that people plod through life only knowing two or three people that actually have their backs.
That aside, I don’t know if I’ve talked about it much, or if any of you know, but before I took my skills to writing I worked in the Mental Health sector for nearly ten years. They were BIG on person-centred self development at the places that I worked at, and I learned a ton about myself and other people through it.
So much negativity
It’s funny actually, you won’t believe the amount of people that come in needing some help, or attention but have already thrown the idea out of the window that anything is going to work before they speak to anyone. I get that, I mean I do. Too many people talking at them and not sitting back and listening to them. It often comes as a shock to them when I’m sat there asking them to tell me a story, or that I’m agreeing and understanding with what they say. It happened to me, I was shocked the first time someone actually listened to, and understood me. I had spent a lifetime of people telling me what I should do, or how I should be, it was quite strange to have someone sit there and ask me what I wanted out of life. AND understand exactly where I was coming from.
It’s not only in the Mental Health sector that listening is needed though. The rise of Facebook and social media has seen the entire world get up and become extremely opinionated when previously there wasn’t many places to vent anonymously, or publicly, depending your circle of friends. People are listening to each other far less than they have ever been, there’s no more emphasis on other people, only yourself and what you have to say. People shouting over one another in a big scramblefest to see who can shout the loudest.
How do we tackle this though? I mean, it’s the way society is gearing itself towards.
My editor rugby tackled me the other day. She wanted my blog to be more inclusive because I speak from one of the most priviledged background one can have from normal societal stock. I’m white, male, heterosexual, Scottish, with access to free healthcare and a ton of other stuff. I’m not saying I’ve not had it rough, but there are things that I am just completely unaware of when trying to make my blog more inclusive; blanket statements and generalisations being one major factor.
I heard her though, I am aware of my priviledge, so I sat and listened, and took it in. It may not have aligned with everything I believed in, but for me the path to enlightenment is understanding, and for the moment I DO know that I didn’t understand.
So I listened.
Great thing that listening tool. Even when what people are telling you is a bit uncomfortable. But that’s also how you learn. If we wallowed in everything that made us feel safe and comfortable we would never progress and tackle our biases, prejudices and ignorances. The brain is a funny old thing. It likes to hide you away into the blissful unawares of safety and ignorance because it hates uncomfortableness.
Fight that! Sometimes feeling uncomfortable is a neccessity.
One of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn in life was when one of my colleagues gave me a dressing down in front of the whole office when my Manager wasn’t there. It wasn’t her place to do so, but ultimately she was completely right. She was upset that I hadn’t considered her friend for a placement, and told me that I was a useless piece of shit, amongst several other home truths and colourfully worded language. But through that altercation it was the first time I learned a valuable lesson.
Negativity can often motivate change in positive people
Her anger had motivated me to do something; it had motivated me to be better, to consider her friend, to open my eyes to a wider audience. And through that I realised that most of the time criticism is actually a really good thing. People don’t usually criticise for no reason, there is always feelings and emotions behind it. It actually led me on to taking everything that was said negatively seriously, no matter how spiteful, and trying to adapt my service to make it inclusive for everyone.
From there I developed that service into a National award winning multi-disciplined Project that was the most successful project my organisation had ever ran. It still runs now, as we speak. It became so good that we didn’t need me to manage it! hah.
And all because I listened to everything that was said to me. It inspired all of my staff too. You see, I’m a great believer in leading by example, and one needs to run a business as a collaborative organisation rather than a competitive one; I worked with all of the local organisations in the area so that we could share people effectively and grow them whilst simulataneously meeting all of our targets. When you believe there is only a limited number of people that will use you, then you fail. I was always thinking of new ways to expand my audience, and I did this through listening to what organisations needed.
Agreeing with people on some level is a great way to force negotiations
I often confuse people when I talk to them privately, in person or over the internet. When people need to talk to me about something difficult I’m usually met with frustration and anger. But I’ve learned through experience to just agree with them. When I agree with them where does their anger and frustration go then? Wow. They now feel they have my ear. And it’s more comfortable for me and the recipient to come to terms.
It’s sadly the reason populist right wingers are rising all over the globe. Donald Trump, Theresa May, et al. They are voted for because a large proportion of people aren’t feeling listened to. By neither their Politicians or their Political opposites. We have been scapegoated and divided. And we’re at each others throats. I haven’t seen a sensible discussion in many years, where one sits down and asks the other what it is that they want? It’s more often than not met with the “Libtard” insults or “Racist” insults.
To be honest I’m sick of it.
We are divided. Remember. Love, not war.
I see a culturally divided world where in fact we should be trying to tolerate each other for the greater good. Through listening comes understanding and through understanding comes acceptance. And through acceptance comes love.
We aren’t going to do any of that if we just constantly push for our own agendas whilst not listening to the other side.
The other side is important. It’s valid. It’s how you build bridges, move forward and make peace.