Look, ask and listen: mastering interpersonal relations

Photo taken from aircall.io -
Photo taken from aircall.io -

So what are you going to accomplish in the next two precious weeks granted to you where for once you will have time to think? Time to find out who you really are and what you want to do with the rest of your life?

If only around half a dozen of us are going to die of the virus and a dozen or so of cancer and maybe only five or six in vehicular accidents, if the algorithms that the actuaries are using are correct, and who am I to doubt them? We all have a good few years ahead of us to build back our lives, our careers, and along the way, our country. Even if you are working from home you now have free the time you formerly spent in traffic.

The major skill that most everyone who has made a success in life has mastered is interpersonal relations. The ability to interact with other people, to understand how they think, what their values are and how to influence them so that the influence lasts. Anybody can do that short term by force or violence, but to be a successful seducer of minds and feelings so that people remember you long into the future and when asked upon retirement “who was it in your life that truly influenced you most?” They pause, look thoughtful, and then slowly mention three names, one of them yours?

To have that long-lasting influence on someone’s life and that includes on the lives of your partner your family members and your children, you have to know them really know them and relatively few of us ever take the time to do that.

We know what they like to eat, the sports or entertainment they prefer and sometimes their career ambitions, but seldom what is at their core, their deep values and how they came by them. You can only get to know them by learning to listen. Really listen. School teaches you to read and write, to do math and handle a computer, but not how to listen. You hear, but don’t know how to listen, or even what the difference is.

One of the deepest luxuries life can afford you is to have someone listen to you for a whole hour without interrupting, without sharing their views or opinions about what you are saying, without giving you advice or pointing out where you are mistaken. To focus on you with their ears, their eyes and their mind. No judgement, just listening. If there is a response it is just a question to move you further in what you are saying: What happened then? How did you feel about that when it happened? How do you feel about it now? Really?

Children rarely if ever get that experience. They come home from play or school with a new experience and start to share what happened and we give them advice: "Well, let me tell you what you should do…”. and off we go. Meaning well but the listening stops while we fail to realise that our perceptions are not theirs. Our experience of life can never be the same as theirs. The environment we grew up in is very different to theirs. We hear their words but do not listen.

In fact nobody’s perception of an experience is ever the same as anyone else’s. Especially not your spouse’s. We may assume that it is, but it isn’t. The filter through which we see and experience cannot be the same as theirs. Even someone you grew up with. You may have had the same parents, grew up in the same household, in the sane community and have walked the same streets, but if you really listen you will realise that their perceptions of events differ from yours.

Try it. Now that you have time. If you are lucky enough to have someone else at hand who trusts you enough to reveal to you what they honestly think or feel, to talk to, or do it over the phone, not an interrogation, just a discussion. As an exercise in your own interpersonal skills. How good are you at it, truly? If your own ambition is to really get to know someone you live or work with anew, remember they are not the same as when you first knew them…life has changed, their perceptions have changed and so have yours. That is what can make our relationships so endlessly interesting, if only we look, ask and listen. Do not even underestimate the children around you. Remember how you knew everything about the lives of your teachers when you were small? Or thought you did? Or your first supervisor and co-workers when you started to work? How do you perceive them now?

People grow and heal or grow nursing old hurts to keep them warm. We all carry wounds from childhood, when we were small and powerless and all those big powerful people around us said and did things to us and didn’t understand what we felt and thought because we didn’t have the words or the courage to express ourselves. Those hurts all lodged in our subconscious and influence our relationships every day. Do you live in a household with people you know without hurting them? Try listening. You might learn something interesting.

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"Look, ask and listen: mastering interpersonal relations"

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