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Philosophies for the
21st Century

Words from the Hai Druid

(Don't just talk, but listen, too)

December 17, 2016

Many have heard the age old saying that communication is a two way street, yet we all know those people that are stuck on a one way road. I'm sure everyone at one point in their existence has run up against a religious zealot or a devout supporter of a political party that will never listen to any points made, no matter how true the points can be. They are so set in their own viewpoints that they will not even think about opposite points of view, let alone blatant facts. With the turmoil that our country is currently in, this is ever so apparent. Some people are so set in their own viewpoints, the viewpoints given to them by their idol leaders and their personal ideals, that they just don't want to hear anything you say, let alone remember what you said correctly in the first place. Some people are just too far gone to even be worth the trouble of helping.

Yet for those that you do love, those that you just have to try and help them no matter what, it is just something you feel you have to do. Sometimes it takes some tough love, but it can be done. But how? Well to start with, we must understand communication and how it is supposed to work. There are two types of listening. Passive listening is mechanical and effortless. If you are awake and your ears work properly, you can listen passively. It does not require any special effort. You hear what the other person says, and you might be able to tell the difference between major and minor points of the conversation, but that is about it. Lack of enthusiasm, a "My viewpoint is the only right viewpoint," or "It's my pity party, you have to feel sorry for me," attitude during communication, characterizes someone who is a passive listener. This is like the husband sitting in his easy chair saying, "Yes, dear," to everything the wife says, not really paying any attention and only placating the speaker. Yes, it is also those stubborn people that really don't care what you say, for their problems or beliefs are their own, and you can never sway them even with logic or the truth. Then there are the active listeners, the ones that really concentrate on the content and context of the discussion. They do more than focus on facts, figures, and ideas, and actively associate the material presented with their own experiences. The content heard during a discussion is converted to something useful and meaningful for the listener. They pay special attention to the discussion because, unlike reading a textbook, you only get one chance to hear and understand the information presented to you.

While we all want to be active listeners, many of us are just too caught up in our own problems, let alone the viewpoints of whomever we are following, to even begin to be active listeners. When you are stressed or emotionally overwhelmed, you are more likely to misread others people, send confusing or off-putting nonverbal signals, and lapse into unhealthy patterns of behavior. You can not communicate effectively when you are daydreaming, checking text messages, or thinking about something else; you are almost certain to miss nonverbal cues in the conversation. You need to stay focused on the moment to moment experience. Nonverbal communication should reinforce what is being said, not contradict it. If you say one thing, but your body language says something else, your listener will likely feel you are being dishonest. For example, you can't say "yes" while shaking your head no. If you disagree with or dislike what is being said, you may use negative body language to rebuff the other person's message, such as crossing your arms, avoiding eye contact, or tapping your feet. You don't have to agree, or even like what is being said, but to communicate effectively without making the other person defensive is important to avoid sending negative signals. Granted, some people are so set in their ways that it will not matter how you communicate, but we have to try.

So how do we achieve true active listening? How do we convince those around us to be active listeners, too? Foremost, you have to learn how to communicate more clearly and effectively. Whether you are trying to improve communication with your spouse, kids, boss, or coworkers, you can improve the communication skills that enable you to effectively connect with others, build trust and respect, and feel heard and understood. Granted sometimes you just have to sit them down, use some tough love and give them a choice. Examples being, either you start listening or you are no longer allowed to be around me, and/or until they do listen, you won't be doing anything for them (no wi-fi passwords, no toys, for adults no, well you know). Each stubborn person has a weakness, and you have to get them to understand that they need to get off that one way highway and merge onto that two way street.

You need to get them to understand just what it takes to be an active listener. There are things that do help, like agreeing that it is okay to disagree, listening actively even if you or they don't agree before you or they speak, and there is always the tactic of looking for some humor in the situation. People often focus on what they should say, but effective communication is less about talking and more about listening. Listening well means not just understanding the words or the information being communicated, but also understand the emotions the speaker is trying to communicate. When you actively listen, you will hear the subtle intonations in someone's voice that tells you how that person is feeling, and the emotions they are trying to communicate. When you are an engaged listener, not only will you better understand the other person, you will also make that person feel heard and understood, which can help build a stronger, deeper connection. During your communications with others, always give them time to communicate their issues as well. Remaining focused on what they are trying to communicate will show them that you are indeed open to assisting with their issues. Many communication lines tend to break down on the side where impatience is in a rush to get out of the conversation. So pay close attention to those that are just trying to back out quickly. Find out what the real reason is that makes them not want to communicate.

There are many other ways to help become a more effective communicator, and the articles on this subject are numerous. In all actuality the human animal is trying to improve. We all see those memes that compare young men in the 1940's and young men today. Let alone what I had to do when I was growing up, or as I tried to teach my own children who now have teenagers of their own. Life is rough, so if you want sympathy go grab the Webster's dictionary and look between sh*t and syphilis. You will find it somewhere there. Yeah, I know that was rough, but that was how I was raised. Life is tough, and being trained by Vietnam Vets when I joined the military taught me that the enemy loves weakness when they are out to kill you. It is a rough life out there, but that was then. Now we need to be more patient with others, especially with all the things we have learned about the human animal. The LGBTQ community is real; it is not just made up or a choice. It was totally accepted in ancient times until a certain group began denouncing it and calling it evil or an abomination. Frankly, the key to truly understanding is by understanding reincarnation, and how it affects the human shells for the soul. Yet those are more ancient beliefs. PTSD really isn't anything new, either. They called it shell shock in WWI/WWII and other various things, but we understand it much better now. ADHD and Autism in the past was handled with spankings, and you will conform or you will be beaten more, but we understand that it isn't their fault, now. Science has improved our understanding of the human animal and I, like many others, have learned that we, too, must progress. Learn to listen, and learn to communicate effectively, for it is our only salvation in these times of hate and prejudice. Let love, patience, and caring be your guide, but every once in a while, a swift kick in the rear is needed, too.

So says the Hai Druid.