When We Stop Doing All the Talking
People encourage us almost from birth to express ourselves. Almost as soon as we begin talking we are expected to speak for ourselves. People tell us to say what we mean and mean what we say. It is as if each of us believes we were born to do all the talking.
I was taught how to be a good speaker. Fear of public speaking is rare for me. I have talked to large groups of people. Arguing cases to a jury in court, teaching, presenting workshops and training, giving keynote presentations.
Talking has not been a problem for me. I generally have something to say.
The challenge for me was to stop all the talking and learn how to listen.
One of the things I often do when I talk is ask questions. I was, usually, encouraged to ask questions when I was a child, and I took full advantage. Curiosity has been one of my core values for longer than I can remember.
I was good at cross-examining witnesses in court. The questions we ask when we cross-examine someone are not conceptual. We are asking people carefully crafted questions to get them to give us specific responses. Cross-examining people is more about talking than about listening well. We are arguing in the form of a question.
Cross-examination is not about getting people to open to us and tell us about their feelings. We cross-examine people to get them nailed down on the facts.
Listening to sacred stillness helped teach me how to listen instead of doing all the talking.
Why Do We Do All the Talking?
Most of us believe we have ideas which are above average. We have experienced the process we used to conceive our ideas and are comfortable with how it works. It is easy for us to discount real problems if we think we will solve them later.
Our ideas fit our own understanding of common sense. When we have addressed the questions we have thought of, we are ready to put our ideas into practice.
If only the people who question our ideas could trust and respect us enough to see how they work. Why will they not allow us to talk our way into moving ahead?
The challenge, and the benefit, for us is those people have their own ideas. They have their own thought processes and their own understanding of common sense. Their questions are not asked to cause problems or confuse us, but to help us.
They are not asking us to explain our ideas further, but to listen and look again. Their common sense and questions have significant contributions to make. Our ideas can be better, from their perspective, and they want to help us improve them.
We believe in the value of our own thinking and ideas. All the talking we do is often based in our seeing ourselves as being right. We are busy defending our thinking, not being open to what someone else has to say.Each of us is motivated to do all the talking as we advocate for our ideas.
The sound of our own voices gets louder and louder, blocking out what anyone else is saying.
We become the only people we can hear. What we are saying convinces us even more deeply we were right all along.
How Do We Stop Doing All the Talking?
Starting a regular, daily practice of listening was a turning point for me. I had an understanding of listening before I began, but I had not explored it.
Spending a set amount of time each day listening became a formational experience. I began to understand listening was not the same as thinking about what to say next. There is freedom and restoration in being open to the world around us.
Listening to sacred stillness helped me recognize the voice I could always hear as my own. I was the one who was constantly talking in my own ear and filling the aural space.
As I began to listen to other people I realized they have their own ideas and ways of thinking. We are not all headed in the same direction. Each of us has our own unique contribution to make to the conversation.
None of us needs to do all the talking.
What Happens When We Stop Doing All the Talking?
My practice began with listening to sacred stillness and grew to include the world around me. The lessons I learned from sacred stillness started changing the ways I listened to other people and myself.
When I stopped doing all the talking it opened space to hear the variety and diversity of life. I began moving from cross-examining the world around me to listening.
Listening allows me to experience life from more perspectives than just my own.
Life is more than just fitting the pieces of the puzzle together to make the picture on the box. Each of us has our own way of relating to everything around us. When we listen the beauty and wonder of those connections grows within us.
As we continue learning to listen well we become more open to the spark of spiritual life burning in us.
Listening to sacred stillness each day shows us how to listen to each other and to ourselves. We listen as people share their stories with us. Our practice of listening to sacred stillness helps us hold those stories together. We begin to glimpse the tapestry of life around us and within us.
There are symphonies of life in sacred stillness. We can take time to listen if we are willing to stop doing all the talking.
Are we doing all the talking today?
How can we stop doing all the talking this week?
[Image by eekim]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and leadership coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and university professor, and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.