I thought I had a post somewhere on basic active listening. It seems not.
Active listening is often required when we least expect it
Active listening isn’t hard. Provided we remember to do it! When we are needed to listen, simply listen, we are often in a rush ourselves and it is the hardest ever to slow down and pay attention.
Three situations require active listening
There are three classical situations when we must pay attention and listen
- Requests: Please may I have . . .!
- Help: Everything is going wrong!
- Anger: Life is unfair!
We rarely miss anger!
The third, anger, is the one we don’t miss. Angry people get in our face. They are bristling with rage. They want something to change now and they’ve decided that it is all our fault! Can’t miss it 🙂
It can be hard to react with applomb
Sadly, because other people’s anger often takes us by surprise, we don’t react well.
If we have a moment to catch our breath, we are probably OK. We give the person the attention they crave so desperately and reassure them of their importance in the world. They calm down and feeling a little sheepish, become our new best friend.
But what of our anger. What we we are angry?
It strikes me that England is an angry country. And people enjoy being angry.
Anger in Britain is a treasured state
Anger in England isn’t an unpleasant temporary state that people want to get away from. It is a treasured state to be sought. People even seem to feel important when they are angry. “There!”, they seem to be saying, “I am angry too!” It is almost as if their status is restored by being angry.
I get angry so that I can be important enough to be insulted?
It’s a perversion. Usually we are angry when our status is diminished, and we want it restored. When an angry person also has a triumphant gleam in their eye, I wonder whether they are also delighted to have found a situation where they are important enough to have been insulted?
Someone needs some deep respect
If I am right, and there is no reason that I should be, then a way to reduce anger is to help people feel valued. Courtesy and politeness do this in part – but they avoid “dissing” the other person. Courtesy and politeness isn’t respect.
If we want to help people find status without resorting to some bizarre form of tantrums, then we need to take the trouble to find out what about them is deeply valuable to us ~ and tell them. I found a great quotation from E E Cummings yesterday ~ we have to mirror to people what is so wonderful and why we would be so much poorer without them!
Extreme experiments in life
Try that as you are next on a commuter train and your neighbour is annoying you. Pay them some attention. Yes, I know you are English, but try. It will be a fun experiment, won’t it?
What will happen when you pick on the one point that is so important to them and that you would really miss if they weren’t part of your life?