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Home » Leadership

Are you “too full” to listen?

Are You Too Full To Listen?

Today, it gives me great pleasure to welcome back Jill Chivers from I’m Listening Now for this excellent guest post about listening.  You can read Jill’s bio at the bottom of this post.   If you like what you read you can join subscribe to her excellent eZine or follow her on Twitter.

If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know that we feature guest posts on a Friday in line with Friday Follow #FF on Twitter.

So it gives me great pleasure to welcome Gill as today’s #FF is @JillChivers over to you Jill:

I was watching a quality documentary the other night.  The show I was is part of a 4-part series, each show is an hour long and it’s a British production.  The show I watched focused on contemporary and divisive issues around body image, self-esteem and the rise of cosmetic surgery.  The presenter is an attractive English woman who has been a practising psychological for nearly 20 years.  I’m sure she was chosen deliberately, TV not being known for too much intentional randomness.

In one interview, the presenter is in Los Angeles, speaking with a cosmetic surgeon.  This surgeon is performing thousands of procedures on women as young as 16, right up to women in their 70s.  He performs what seems to be a rather delicate surgery that many of us wouldn’t even know existed, let alone knew there was such demand for.  The presenter was clearly astounded that this surgeon was performing so many surgeries, on women with such a large age range.  It showed in her body language, in her facial expression and in her questions.

Argumentative. After asking, for the nth time, about the social and cultural pressures that put women in a position where they feel there is no choice but to go under the knife to conform to a pre-determined standard of acceptable beauty, the surgeon finally demanded “Why are you trying to oppress women?  Why are you—“He didn’t quite get to finish his question before the presenter jumped in with “I’m not trying to oppress women, I just think that for women to feel they have no choice but to go under the knife to conform to a pre-determined standard of acceptable beauty is…” when she was cut off by the surgeon who repeated his question, more vehemently this time “Why are you trying to oppress women?  Surely it’s their choice as to what surgery they have?”  That particular sequence of loaded question-blocked response-interruption may well have continued for some time, but we, the viewers, were fortunately spared and the show moved on to another segm

Too full to listen. What I noticed about the presenter in particular was how ‘full’ she seemed of a set of ideas and beliefs around the issues she was presenting on.  Perhaps her years as a psychologist gave her good reason to feel she knew a lot of the answers.

Purpose. I wondered how intentional her style of questioning and her overall way of being was.  I wondered if the show’s producers had discussed her tone and approach to each interviewee, or whether she was left to go it au naturale, unimpeded by any change in her natural style.  I wonder what they collectively were seeking to achieve with that interview with the LA surgeon.

Combative. The LA surgeon interview had a combative style to it.  Two opposing positions appeared very early in the short discussion we saw on screen.  The presenter was not open or receptive or actively seeking to understand.  She was standing there with her metaphorical sword and shield, ready to do battle with this obnoxious and greedy surgeon, preying on the vulnerabilities of countless women (at least, that’s what I imagined she might have been thinking, based purely on what I saw of her behaviour, facial expression, questions and questioning style).

Maybe they got what they wanted out of that interview.  Television, after all, has a primary purpose to entertain, no matter whether its secondary purpose is to educate or inform.  And that segment was attention grabbing.

But if their intention was to understand the perspective of this surgeon, then the presenter failed in her duty.  Her cup was already full before she got to the interview.   She was “full” of her own viewpoints, her own beliefs and her own knowledge.  There was no room for any other perspectives, especially not those so far away from her own.

What about you? When have you been ‘too full’ to listen?  What impact did that have on the interaction, the relationship and the conversation?  Let us know in the comments.

About the Author: Read more about Jill’s fascination with the power and magic of listening in everyday lives by visiting her website where you can also sign-up to her weekly ezine

7 Comments »

  • Gurl said:

    Hi, Jill and Matthew,
    Love this post. I know so many people who are too full to listen. I won’t rant about it here, but it is a huge pet peeve of mine.

    When I talk with someone, especially if we have differing viewpoints, I just want to know they are really hearing MY side as I am trying to hear there side. I may never agree with them, but I am never to full to try to see someone else’s point of view.

    To me that is the beauty of being human in the glorious world…to connect and to learn. You can’t do either if you are so full you are always on the defensive.

  • Ben said:

    This is really nice Jill.

    I think we all are in our own way guilty of this. Our brains instantly start self talking all of our opinions when we are are listening to some one else and this usually means we miss crucial parts of the argument or don listen at all.

    Maybe this is where the idea of “my glass is half full” could be useful. Half full of my ideas with room to take others as well.

  • El Edwards said:

    Knowing what these British documentaries are like, I couldn’t help but smile as I imagined this one playing out. I don’t doubt for second that the presenter was sent in there to get into a quarrel with the surgeon.

    What I loved about this post though Jill was the message behind the illustration. The older I get, the less argumentative and strong in my position I get. Don’t get me wrong, there is a small handful of things at my core that I won’t be moved on but those are values more than opinions. But I also agree that it’s important to leave room for the input from other people.

    P.S. Seeing as you’re offering Matthew, please may I put my hat in the ring for a copy of The E Myth? Not wanting to push my luck (seeing as my copy of 4HWW was from you and you’ve already been very kind to me this week) but I’m going to. 😉

    I would love to read this book for two reasons:

    1. You recommended it. Every book I’ve bought at your recommendation has been excellent and worth every penny.
    2. I have massive aspirations for Heaven and El and it would be great to read this book and avoid some of the pitfalls.

  • Nigel said:

    Like someone else said, TV had their own soap to stage with that interview – as usual. I do have relatively strong ideas on that topic but would like to hear why the other person felt differently. That’s ‘my’ soap.

    I would like to get my hands on “Crush it!” since I have all these skill-sets and not all are being utilised. I am hoping it would show me how to be able to channel what I have and make it profitable.

    Cheers!

  • Steve said:

    Active listening is a very important talent.

    I find that way to often in a conversation (even amongst friends and family) People are formulating their next “point” while the other person is talking.

    If most people are honest they will admit to having done this at some point.

    But that really isn’t listening or a conversation, that is really having a dual monologue with someone

  • Jill Chivers said:

    Listening can be easy — when we are in full agreement with the other person is one situation when that’s true… or it can be challenging — when we are in violent disagreement with the other person is one situation where this can happen.

    Gurl – I love your remarks about connecting and learning. Very hard to do when our ears, hearts & minds are already full of our own viewpoints.

    Ben – you’re right, we are all guilty of this! Being aware is the first step to changing that, and the ‘glass half empty’ is actually a nice twist on an old metaphor!

    El – appreciated the distinction between values and opinions, so true.

    Nigel – yes, television as the medium can’t be ignored as being a feature of that discussion. And yes, I’d have liked to have heard more myself, of what the surgeon thought/felt, and what the interviewer thought/felt. Instead, we saw verbal jousting and none of us are any the wiser.

    Steve – that’s true and a topic I blog about quite a lot – how to have a real conversation, not just a series of monologues. Being silent is not the same thing as listening. Listening requires focus.

  • Tej Kohli said:

    back Jill Chivers Bio is very impressive, I will want to know more about his work and business, I also expect a post on the topic ” Common Man Speaks”