LISTENING with Love and Affection

My Valentine’s Day gift to you …

When I came across this article, which is a “summarized extract” from Brenda Ueland’s book, If You Want to Write, at the Global:Ideas:Bank site, I got so excited. I just had to post this even though the book is no longer in print (140,000 copies sold).

In my work doing career consultations with artists, musicians and songwriters, I hear them repeat some form of the phrase, “I just want to be heard.” (Often this is the driving force behind their yearning to express themselves, their thoughts or dreams or feelings … and just as often, it doesn’t seem to matter too much who is listening to them, so long as they’re heard.) At any rate, I’m made aware that many of us, as children, were not listened to, certainly not in any serious way. This is not to be confused with merely wanting attention. It’s a much higher ambition.

On the contrary, it’s clearly evident to me when I find someone who has had someone in his/her life who feels he or she was listened to (and taken seriously) in his/her youth … and also has someone in his/her life who is still listening to them, as Brenda Ueland says, “… with love and affection.”

When I worked (years ago) in Talent Development at Walt Disney Imagineering, several of us took an extremely helpful 3-day workshop called Leader Effectiveness Training. One of the most difficult sessions for all of us was the part on Listening. We all thought we had been doing that “all our lives.”

In one exercise, we were given scripts based on work-related problems. One person read his script and another was asked to repeat back what he thought he’d heard. What we learned was that anyone can repeat words back and say, “I hear you.” But what frequently is missing is the true essence underlying what is being said. Many of us in the exercise leaped to solve the work-related problem before completely understanding what the “real” problem was. This type of listening was difficult for us … much more intense and yet, invaluable. Listening that closely takes practice and patience!

My husband, John Braheny, is a consultant in the music business … and has, over the years, interviewed hundreds of music business celebrities (and behind-the-scenes stars too). His interviews have been printed in several magazines as well as broadcast “in flight” on United Airlines. He says he’s learned to make it a practice to get to the interview recording session early, and begin the interview with some easy “talk” because it often takes a few minutes (or longer) to have the interviewee relax and “open up.” He often gets them to tell stories they’d forgotten they knew. He’s very patient and is the best listener I know.

The Brenda Ueland article here is particularly good for writers, but whether you’re in the arts or not, I believe it has something to say to all of us, as a friend, a lover, a parent, a teacher, a manager, a husband or wife. Heck, if you’re around people at all, this is something you should read. And maybe pass it along to your Valentine!


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