As adamant as I am about Bringing the True You to Life (I even trademarked it!), one of the greatest skills needed for living an authentic life surprises me. Because it also challenges me, I unconsciously avoid it, and suffer because of it.
That skill is listening. To be able to stand in the presence of another and listen fully to them, without defense or personal agenda, opens us up for a flood of information that can both reflect our truth back to us, and change us. I guess that’s why we don’t do it.
The vulnerability of listening is frightening. To avoid that discomfort, we create all sorts of barriers to effective listening:
- Focusing on our reply (a.k.a. waiting our turn to speak)
- Managing our personal agenda
- Allowing emotions to overwhelm
- Making assumptions
- Being impatient
- Thinking we already know everything the other could possibly say
By talking, by engaging in a stream of outgoing information, we block new incoming information which would help us better understand the other person, the situation, and ultimately ourselves. We block feedback from The Universe. When we defend, we are defending a version of who we were when we entered the conversation, not allowing the experience of the present moment to change us. Without incoming information, we cheat ourselves of the chance to develop and trust our inner voice, that practice that is so vital to living True You.
To truly just listen takes courage. Stephen Covey said, “Seek to understand before being understood.” If the point of bringing the True You to Life is to have deep, satisfying, authentic connections with others, shouldn’t we gladly invite their True You to the conversation?
The reason this is on my mind today is that my husband and I quarreled last night. It was one of those circular arguments: one we’ve tread many times before and gotten nowhere every time, except a little farther apart. It worries me that this wonderful man may doubt how much I love and respect him, that two intelligent and articulate people can’t find common ground, that our failed efforts are exhausting us both. Clearly, something has to change. Tonight, it will be me.