I’ve taken part in listening exercises in several different trainings. The most popular one is one person speaking for a number of minutes without interruption while the listener, sitting opposite, just listens without saying anything. And then they would swap roles to “return the favour.”
In all of them, they felt good. There seemed to be a noticeable impact on the speaker. Some of them got quite emotional, and there were a few tears too.
When that happened, I used to think that made me a great listener, if the speaker was so moved by the experience.
So I thought, I’d do the same kind of listening in the real world as I did in a controlled environment.
Not once was I ever able to achieve the same effect, and not anywhere near close to it either, despite many attempts before I eventually gave up. That was when I knew there’s something wrong here. I didn’t know what it was, but I wanted to get to the bottom of it, and who knows, it might even offer a completely different way of listening.
Clearly though, it seemed the “rules” of listening were very different in the real world than in a controlled environment.
Reflecting back on those listening exercises, I was able to get a little more honest with myself. I started to see that these exercises felt somewhat artificial and contrived somehow, not knowing why. There certainly wasn’t any naturalness. I realised that I must have had something going on in me that felt like I had to suppress something in order to stay quiet as a listener. Something like, “I mustn’t be having any thoughts here.” It certainly felt like there was some mental effort going on.
It was at that point that I knew I did not know what listening was, because I suspected that real listening would work in any environment, in any circumstances. I set about finding out more, but I knew I had to do it all by myself. After all, the trainings I went to did not provide the answer I was looking for, even though they held the promise to do so.
As it turned out, the logic of the Three Principles absolutely and totally wrecked my thinking about what I thought had happened in the listening exercises. Even better and totally unexpectedly, it made me a better listener for any situation, that didn’t involve learning anything about listening!
Sydney Banks to the Rescue
Sydney Banks provided a clue in his book, “The Missing Link” (page 85). He said:
That quote was a gigantic head turner for me. I was under the impression that the less I think, the more I can hear. Syd was saying something very different. That was good news for me, because I didn’t know of any other way to think about listening until that quote.
As I understand what Sydney Banks was saying, if it wasn’t for my thinking, I would not be able to hear. That’s a complete and direct refutation to what I had previously understood. Another way of saying the same thing, in a simpler way is: it is BECAUSE of my thinking that I can hear.
At that point, I realised the idea of having less thinking no longer made any sense. If I had less thinking, I would actually hear LESS! I thought, why on earth would I want to end up like a doormat?
I felt a huge relief, because I didn’t realise that my efforts to have less thinking in my life IS my thinking!!!
It looked for all the world to me that better listening would come from having less thinking, but it turned out that trying to have less thinking turned out to be entirely the wrong target. Can you imagine how much effort it took looking towards the wrong target, not getting the results, and not knowing why?
This is why illusions can be so deceptive. Illusions look totally real until you see how thinking actually works. I realised I had been doing a lot of thinking that didn’t look like thought. The illusion fell apart. Because of the logic, the target had lost its promise. I was super glad to no longer have to think about that anymore – and for good!
At last, the real work could start because Syd’s quote gave me some genuine traction, rather than wheelspin. I now had a way to think about this that felt meaningful and had some common sense built-in. I knew if I were to continue exploring in this direction, there would be some nice surprises in store for me. And that’s exactly what happened.
Valda Monroe wrote this brilliant quote:
I had been focused on less thinking, and when I saw how thinking actually works, I saw something that went far beyond my original interest in listening.
In fact, it made me realise just how many other aspects of my life that I had made my thinking the target – there were loads! You can guess the palpable relief and a new-found sense of freedom I now have, all as a result of not needing to do what didn’t need to be done about my thinking anymore.
Listening and Thinking go together
After these insights, I started to experience something very different when having a conversation with another person. I was hearing things that I had never heard before. It seemed to be way more intelligent and that there was much more understanding and common sense included in my perception.
This was a very strange and surprising experience, yet I was thoroughly enjoying it. I realised that I was more connected to the other person than ever before. Which was truly bizarre – because I had done nothing whatsoever to connect better to the other person!!! Even more interestingly, the other person was very engaged with me as well, being quite honest about themselves and sharing it with me!
What’s going on here? I mean, suddenly out of nowhere, for seemingly no reason whatsoever, and certainly not because of any trainings, here I am having a very meaningful and intelligent conversation with someone!
I wanted to understand this completely new phenomenon, because it was brilliant!
The conversations I was having were so dynamic. It was an exchange of some incredibly intelligent conversations that I had thought were reserved only for the very best of humans. And here I am, totally unqualified, having these conversations.
There was also another incredible difference from the listening exercises I did. When I was listening, the speaker spoke with greater intelligence that often surprised them. And I could engage in it, because I was hearing my own wisdom and intelligence, often surprising myself as well, instead of staying silent, which added hugely to the spirit and dynamic of the conversation.
It wasn’t a person to person conversation. It was a thinker to thinker conversation hanging out in a world of thought, where wisdom and intelligence reside. The stars were aligned!
I had no idea that was on the table. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have “stumbled” upon this discovery, which is more like an uncovery really, because there’s no way I have the necessary intelligence to come up with all by myself!
What's really happening here?
It was at this point, I wanted to nail down more specifically what is actually happening (and not what to do!). As a Three Principles Paradigm consultant, I knew learning about this would go a long way to making me a better consultant and providing more value and impact to individuals and groups I work with.
It was already apparent to me that there are people whose listening had improved without any listening exercises, even though it does seem as if these exercises could be helpful. But the rigorous logic of the Three Principles Paradigm has the ability to debunk what would be really nice to believe and instead point to the truth of what’s really happening. This stops us from believing that there is a connection between these exercises and better listening. I also realised that simply increasing my awareness of listening during listening exercises does nothing more than increase my awareness. There’s no insight happening.
I realised first of all that this deeper kind of listening needed a new name. There’s nothing on the internet that comes close to it. The closest I can come up with is “paradigm-based listening.” I’ve used “Paradigm Ears” in the past. Yet they are not something you can “put on.” It’s already here, before any personal thought, or more precisely, before any outside-in thinking.
So I started to see clearly, that for every outside-in that got removed as a result of insight, my listening got better. I realised that better listening is not the means or the target, but a by-product of a paradigm-based insight. Now I see how that works. That’s really good to know.
And the best part is, knowing how the Three Principles works and what a paradigm-based insight is, you can always look in the direction of where you think your feelings are coming from. This is insightful territory. It means that there is always the possibility of insight, which means there’s always the possibility of better listening that includes more wisdom and intelligence than ever before. But it’s never something you can foresee ahead of time. Don’t have any expectations or imaginations of how you’ll be listening, God has something better for you than whatever you can think of, I promise!
The never-ending widening effect
Going back to Syd’s quote, “As you think, so you shall hear,” is not restricted to just hearing. It applies to all senses. Sight, touch, smell and taste as well as sound.
I experienced a vast increase in the richness of what I was seeing with my own eyes, and again I had no idea that was on offer. Perhaps this is what Syd meant by, the world is a beautiful place to be. It may also be what Keith Blevens and Valda Monroe describe in their implication, “There’s only one place to be” – the removal of the outside-in reveals an unfolding beauty on an ongoing basis. My personal realities just keep on evolving naturally and delightfully.
Better listening never had anything to do with working on, analysing, exercises, or effort of any kind. It was all down to just one thing. Insightfully seeing that feeling is coming from thought in the moment.
How could one insight do so much? Yet it makes perfect sense given the logic of the Three Principles that it would have such impact and go so far – because everything we all do in our individual lives is based on the pre-existing logic of the Three Principles. And this one insight is what gave me a deeper experience of God. Only God can do so much then, and for that I am very thankful.