As a human being, you don’t listen to what others are saying; you listen to your story about the other person or situation. Another way to say it is this: we are listening before anyone opens their mouth and we are listening to something we formed a long time ago, usually decades.
This is one of the premises of all the programs at Landmark, and it’s called the “already always listening” distinction. I heard a Landmark Forum leader on the weekend creating the distinction for others, and he said this marvellous thing.
He said, “Every time there’s someone there who’s about to speak, I say to myself, ‘I’m about to not listen'”.
That’s a man who’s unwilling to live in the fantasy that he’s listening. Instead, he starts from the assumption he’s about to not listen. Starting there – in the acknowledgement of what is so – he then has the chance to discover listening. A chance, not a guarantee, and it’s a chance even so. The other way, there’s no chance.
Image: One of my favourite philosophical texts, the brilliant The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech by Avital Ronell