Extreme Listening: 4 Motivations
If one motivation doesn’t fit you right now, check that you have a pulse
We’re not great listeners. There’s so much we want to say and we are generally desperate to be heard. And in these highly partisan times, we simply shout at and past each other and call it a conversation.
But there are natural times when each of us actually does stop to listen. I count at least four:
- I Need Something. The most interested college students I teach are the ones who realize they need something. They are motivated to listen and stay engaged in class because they see themselves using the skill/knowledge we are talking about. I listen intently to the old guy at the hardware store because I truly have no clue why this plumbing connection will not seal. I listen because I need whatever it is the person is saying.
- I Want to Understand. It’s why a lot of us read fiction and non-fiction alike: we want to understand this topic and we’re willing to pay attention to this author as she or he spins out the story or argument. Wanting to understand is the motivation behind a story’s tension—it’s the hook that keeps us on the pages. We listen to our kids when they explain why they did this or that (when it seems perfectly counterintuitive to me). We sometimes listen to our own explanations and obfuscations as we try to distance ourselves from some thing we’ve done.
- I Want to be Close to You. “Listen, sweetheart, tell me everything about you.” The early days of romance give way over time to the growing realization that there is much we don’t know about our spouse—even after 30 years of marriage. We listen because we want to hear the perspective of our beloved.
- I Want to Serve. “Serve” sounds so menial, doesn’t it? And yet finding yourself in a position to help another is a primary motivation for work—at least I’ve found it so. Wanting to help beats working only for money. Wanting to help beats working to amass power every time. And wanting to serve is a sort of gift that keeps on giving. The desire to serve means listening to someone to see what he or she needs and wants. You cannot serve without listening.
If you have a listener in your life—someone who lets you spin out your argument or story and remains engaged—count yourself fortunate. I believe there’s actually quite a lot of healing in those listening encounters.
If you want to be an extreme listener tap into one of these motivations and apply it to your current situation.
Can you think of other motivations for listening?
Image credit: Kirk Livingston