Are you Listening ???

Don’s Diary

“I know that you can hear but are you listening?”

This sounds like a bit like a child’s reprimand and most of us hopefully take this on board at an early age. Unfortunately, some never do so. They are happy to mouth the cliché that communications are a two way business but never believe that it applies to them. They think that they are right, other views are irrelevant, and that is it. They hear but are too preoccupied with what they are going to say next to listen. They do not seem to understand that body language often communicates at least as much as do words.

Their capability is a bit like a superseded computer: one that may have a great storage capacity and can hold all the imaginable trivia but cannot facilitate the most simple necessary information manipulation functions. Some call them dinosaurs. However, some people are gifted in reading the nuances in expression and interpersonal behaviour.

Computer communications militate against good listening. Hardly a week goes by without a report that someone in a social network has misread the message and then found himself or herself in a serious difficulty, often fatal. Email correspondence and social networks allow the originator to contact quickly many people and if he or she is lucky, the addressees will “hear” but the originator will have no idea whether or not they have “listened”.

Even face to face, the spoken word can be hard to interpret. Slang can often have different meanings to individuals, especially where there is a generation gap. One needs to be attuned to allegorical and subliminal language. Some people find it easier to put a difficult point of view in the form of a parable so what is heard has another meaning. One also sometimes has to contend with lying, half-truths, understatements, exaggeration, innuendo and poor expression. Shyness, lack of confidence or anger can result in “listening” being very difficult.

Whenever I have to negotiate a matter I always do so solely by myself. Those in the commercial world develop a great capability to identify differences between two parties, sense when a settlement point has nearly been reached and where there is a vulnerability that can be exploited.

In a Lodge, good communication skills are essential if the expectations of members are to be realised. They are not enhanced by talking at members but by listening. Encourage them to say what they think and without immediately responding with you own views, pause for a little while then say “and go on” and await the response. Then pause again then just say “yes” to the next response, pause again and smile and just nod your head, and so on. Sometimes you can draw people out after a long pause by repeating, perhaps abbreviated, what they have just said to you: make it sound like a question. Look for body language. If they want to know what you think, they will ask!

If you cannot listen effectively and read the body language properly, the next thing likely to be seen will be members just withdrawing from activities and voting with their feet. This is one of the ways Lodges fail. We all need wisdom to comprehend.

Fraternal best wishes to all

Don Paterson