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.