We are All One of a Kind
I lied to you in my previous lesson. There is another absolutely correct answer to that question I asked at the beginning. (“How tall,” remember?)
Use some part of your body—your palm or your arm—to measure the height of the piece of furniture or the person. Whatever the result, you’ve now got your second absolutely correct answer.
Every single thing, human being, or situation is completely and diversely unique, just like our fingerprints. It’s what makes beauty and learning possible. This is a given; it doesn’t need effort or argumentation.
Active listening therefore requires acceptance of our own uniqueness and respect for others’. It challenges us to “first seek to understand, then to be understood,” as Stephen Covey puts it. Constructive communication fails when we try to imprint our own unique measurement onto another’s. This tendency to imprint manifests when we start believing that another’s uniqueness is a personal threat to ours.
The main purpose of active listening is to discover what uniqueness the interlocutor can bring to the world, how we can encourage them to bring it out, and what we can learn from it. We respect their fingerprint on the world in order to complement our own, thus contributing to and enhancing the bigger picture.
Experiment again with the exercise from yesterday. But this time, every time you try it, apart from having no opinion of your own, ask yourself, “What is valuable in what I am hearing/experiencing/seeing? What can I learn?” Try this experiment several times throughout your day. Be very alert so that you can become aware of when the voices in your head try to judge or be right or convince. Allow them to go silent and simply observe where this takes you.
“I dreamed of being special then awoke to be unique.”
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