Extraordinary Listening is an attitude, an extraordinary, intentional, spirit of willingness to perceive and consider the whole of incoming data, and to evaluate it impartially and intelligently. For our study, let’s differentiate that from paying attention so you can argue against, or only recognizing data you already value.
As we break it down, there seems a two step process of receiving input and making meaning out of it. In reality, the meaning we make filters the content we choose to pay attention to, so they act interdependently, each affecting the other.
Where is our attention? We pay attention to the data, the content, what we are listening to, maybe. How often do we pay attention to the process, how we are listening, both what we pay attention to and the spirit of our meaning making. And though that process of attention can be quite sophisticated, believe it or not, the simple shift of noticing the distinction of content and meaning making, causes extraordinary change. This knowledge, understanding that listening includes the making meaning that goes on within us AND that it is mutable, has more power to affect your life than you might imagine. So much, it’s hard to believe.
An example of ‘how’ we make meaning might be: Did you ever watch someone else describe a seemingly neutral action by another to support their position about that person? Either how wonderful it was, if they like the person, or how stupid or terrible it was, if they dislike them. [Have you ever not seen yourself do this?]
I’ve been using the term ‘romantic notions’ to describe these tendencies to color things according to our known perception. These ‘romantic notions’ in turn color our perception of the world and therefore our strategies and actions in it.
What do we lose when our listening is poor, biased, distracted or pre-judged? How creative is our solution likely to be, when our attention is un-focused or attending to only a narrow band, rather than the full spectrum of perception? And while total awareness or perfect success may or may not be your goal, the question really is, would you rather move your awareness toward a broader, more complete perception or a narrower one? Which attitude toward awareness would you elect to develop to solve critical problems in your life?
That is, if you could choose to do so consciously, which most people cannot because they do not make this simple distinction. They can’t see the way they assemble meaning and so are bound to repeat the known.
There were those people at the turn of the 20th century whose reaction to progress could be summed up by the reaction to the airplane. “If man had been meant to fly, he would have been born with wings.” Women were not even considered in the equation. Neither were the non-Caucasian races seen to be important in the unfolding of Anglo- European history. We will never know what opportunities we lost.
As a species we have reached a different tone of listening and inclusion. When we include, it adds to our knowledge base which increases our wealth. Diversity, acceptance and inclusion will be the watchwords of the new millennium. And harmony co-operation and creative collective intelligence will be at the fore front, if we are to develop a sustainable system.
As we enter the 21st century the quality, quantity and speed of change will only increase. Success will be determined not by what you know, but rather by how fast you learn. Resistance will not help. Aikido, the art of harmonizing with change, what i call extraordinary listening, will.
To negotiate the New World will require an extraordinary listening.
“Intelligence is not what you know how to do but rather what you do when you don’t know what to do!”
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)