When we communicate using our voice, we either listen or talk, taking turns hoping we are dancing gracefully with the person in front of us using our voice. In many cases, we (okay, I) prefer the latter: talk. If I continue talking unconsciously in a selfish mode, my listening would soon be treated as the occasional candy bar for the other side for being patient enough (and to encourage tolerating even more hours of my speech).
But is listening a counterpart to talking? Do the listen and the talk form a tango partner or a ying-yang circle in our communication circle? I am thinking that it might all be about listening. Yes, that’s what various self-help books say, but I would like to push it a bit further: talk is just another form of listen.
When I talk, I treat my words as a stream of my thinking/emotion/consciousness beamed toward the person in front of me. I am engaged in the act of output, not intake, metaphorically. But what is really occurring at the physical level is that I am constantly listening to my own voice. I need to tune into what I am saying in order to make sure I am saying things that I ought to say (or things I do not regret) and also to follow my stream of consciousness. Sometimes I talk without even listening to myself, and that almost always lead to disasters.
I listen while I talk. The difference between the traditional “listen” is where I am focused on: myself. When I focus on the other person (and shut my mouth), I “listen.” When I focus on myself (and open my mouth), I “talk.” In both cases, the fundamental action that is occurring is “listening,” or more precisely, “paying attention.”
When I strike a conversation and the other side keeps talking, I get frustrated, thinking that he or she isn’t listening at all. What really bothers me isn’t much his or her act: it is the feeling that I am neglected and am not paid enough attention. Indeed, the other side might already be fully engaged in the act of listening—to himself/herself.
Am I paying real attention? That is the key, and it does not merely apply to the act of talk. When I “listen” in the traditional way, I do not necessarily pay attention to the other side, which is equally as rude as keep opening my mouth.
And the issue of listening = paying attention is not restricted to conversations between other people. When I deal with my negative emotions, I think I do anything: fight, ignore, whine, eat, drink, laugh, cry, get distractions, etc. Yet I often neglect the most important and most effective healing process: listen. It is just that the other person is inside me, and all I did in the name of coping with my stress was not paying attention to the anger/sad-me. It is true that those nasty little bastards have huge black holes that suck me in, but ignoring them only make those holes larger and deeper.
Again, am I paying attention?