“Can we tell ourselves when we need to walk away from chatter, turn it off entirely for half a day, or a full day, or a whole weekend, ease into a realm of something slower, but more tangible?
Can we go outside and listen?"
~ Naomi Shihab Nye
Excerpt from "What Can You Learn about Persuasion from Hostage Negotiation?" a Barking Up the Wrong Tree interview with Chris Voss:
What are the most common mistakes people make when negotiating?
They neglect to pay attention to emotional factors, and they really neglect to listen.
I compare a lot of negotiations to dealing with a schizophrenic, because a schizophrenic’s always got a voice in his head talking to him which makes it very hard for him to listen to you.
Now most people in business negotiations, they approach the negotiation, and they’ve got firmly in their mind all of the arguments that support their position. So when they’re not talking, they’re thinking about their arguments, and when they are talking, they’re making their arguments. They view negotiation as a battle of arguments.
If while you’re making your argument, the only time the other side is silent is because they’re thinking about their own argument, they’ve got a voice in their head that’s talking to them. They’re not listening to you. When they’re making their argument to you, you’re thinking about your argument, that’s the voice in your head that’s talking to you. So it’s very much like dealing with a schizophrenic.
If your first objective in the negotiation, instead of making your argument, is to hear the other side out, that’s the only way you can quiet the voice in the other guy’s mind. But most people don’t do that. They don’t walk into a negotiation wanting to hear what the other side has to say. They walk into a negotiation wanting to make an argument. They don’t pay attention to emotions and they don’t listen.
“The sound itself isn’t the problem. The problem is the resistance in our mind.”
~ Andy Puddicombe
"When you listen to any soundscape, a natural soundscape, you are listening to information that tells you about biology, about resource management , medicine, religion, natural history, architecture, literature, physics, and many, many others.
For instance, people have asked me why you do this. Well, partly because I suffer from a terrible case of ADHD. I've always had this as a kid. And I had it as an adult, and I'm not much into medication. So the only thing that calms me down is going out into the natural world and listening to these creatures.
And being quiet enough for long periods of time and just shutting up and listening to things. I can't rustle my clothes, I can't move around and shuffle my feet around. I've got to sit very quietly for long periods of time, and that's what this has taught me to do. So in terms of healing and a certain kind if medicine, that's one thing the soundscape does.
It also speaks to us about religion. For instance, it's the natural soundscape from which we acquire spirituality. That was the voice of the divine for us for so many years, while we lived closely connected to the natural world."
~ Dr. Bernie Krause, from "The Great Animal Orchestra," To the Best of Our Knowledge, Nov. 11, 2012
"The problem with listening, of course, is that we don't. There's too much noise going on in our heads, so we never hear anything. The inner conversation simply never stops. It can be our voice or whatever voices we want to supply, but it's a constant racket. In the same way we don't see, and in the same way we don't feel, we don't touch, we don't taste...The essential activity of listening requires at least a minimal point of attention. And that allows us to keep the flow of attention uninterrupted."
See also: "A Conversation with Philip Glass," Studio 360, September 14, 2012
Willsboro, New York, July 31, 2011
Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us. Not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal. The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are. We are all hungry for this other silence. It is hard to find. In its presence we can remember something beyond the moment, a strength on which to build a life. Silence is a place of great power and healing. Silence is God's lap.
Many things grow the silence in us, among them simply growing older.
We may then become more a refuge than a rescuer, a witness to the process of life and the wisdom of acceptance.
Taking refuge does not mean hiding from life. It means finding a place of strength, the capacity to live the life we have been given with greater courage and sometimes even with gratitude.
See also: The Capacity to Find the Hidden Light
I grew up thinking that I was a listener except on my way to graduate school one time, I simply pulled over making the long drive from Seattle, Washington, to Madison, Wisconsin, pulled over in a field to get some rest and a thunderstorm rolled over me. While I lay there and the thunder echoed through the valley and I could hear the crickets, I just simply took it all in. And it's then I realized that I had a whole wrong impression of what it meant to actually listen. I thought that listening meant focusing my attention on what was important even before I had heard it and screening out everything that was unimportant even before I had heard it.
In other words, I had been paying a lot of attention to people, but I really hadn't been paying a lot of attention to what is all around me. It was on that day that I really discovered what it means to be alive as another animal in a natural place. That changed my life. I had one question and that was how could I be 27 years old and have never truly listened before? I knew, for me, I was living life incredibly wrong, so I abandoned all my plans, I dropped out of graduate school, I moved to Seattle, took my day job as a bike messenger and only had one goal, and that was to become a better listener.
Sounds of Silence
Through the sounds of the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park, acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton guides us to One Square Inch of Silence — with the chirping twitter of the Western wren and the haunting call of the Roosevelt elk. Take this aural hike [download] and be sure to listen with a pair of headphones or earbuds. You’ll discover quieting sounds you might miss without them.
“My mother always said, ‘Billy’s never bored.’ All my life I’ve listened to the rain. I think it’s utterly mysterious. Every raindrop falls just once and you only hear it at the end of its fall. . .
The comets burn out and the black holes disappear. There’s nothing good or bad about that. That’s the way it is. I don’t know where I come from and I don’t know where I’m going and it’s wonderful to be here.”
~ W.S. Merwin, from a conversation with Maggie Galehouse, Houston Chronicle, April 22, 2012
"In the act of writing the poem, I am obedient, and submissive. Insofar as one can, I put aside ego and vanity, and even intention. I listen. What I hear is almost a voice, almost a language. It is a second ocean, rising, singing into one’s ear, or deep inside the ears, whispering in the recesses where one is less oneself than a part of some single indivisible community. Blake spoke of taking dictation. I am no Blake, yet I know the nature of what he meant. Every poet knows it. One learns the craft, and then casts off. One hopes for gifts. One hopes for direction. It is both physical, and spooky. It is intimate, and inapprehensible. Perhaps it is for this reason that the act of first-writing, for me, involves nothing more complicated than paper and pencil. The abilities of a typewriter or computer would not help in this act of slow and deep listening."
The Owl Who Comes
By Mary Oliver, from New and Selected Poems: Volume Two
the owl who comes
through the dark
in the black boughs of the apple tree
and stare down
the hook of his beak,
and his eyes,
like two moons
in the distance,
soft and shining
under their heavy lashes—
like the most beautiful lie—
as he watches
and waits to see
what might appear,
out of the seamless,
out of the teeming
and if i wish the owl luck,
and I do,
what am I wishing for that other
climbing through the snow?
what we must do,
is to hope the world
keeps its balance;
what we are to do, however,
with our hearts
waiting and watching—truly
I do not know.
by Mary Oliver, from Dream Work
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice-
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do-
determined to save
the only life that you could save.
Excerpt from "The Gates of Hope" by Victoria Safford, The Nation, Sep. 20, 2004:
Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through); nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of "Everything Is Gonna Be All Right." But a different, sometimes lonely place, of truth-telling about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle but joy in the struggle. And we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we're seeing, asking them what they see.
With our lives we make our answers all the time, to this ravenous, beautiful, mutilated, gorgeous world. However prophetic our words, it is not enough simply to speak.
Excerpt from "Teaching Doctors to Be Mindful," by Tara Parker-Hope, Well blog, New York Times, Oct. 27, 2011:
“Mindful communication is one way for practitioners to feel more ‘in the game’ and to find meaning in their practice,” said Dr. Michael S. Krasner, an associate professor of clinical medicine at Rochester and one of the study authors. He, along with his co-author Dr. Ronald Epstein, a professor of family medicine, psychiatry and oncology at Rochester, developed the course in mindfulness.
But it takes training, and that training can be particularly challenging for physicians who are used to denying their personal responses to difficult situations. In addition to learning to meditate, doctors participate in group discussions and writing and listening exercises on topics like medical errors, managing conflict, setting boundaries and self-care. Small group discussions are meant to increase awareness of how one’s emotions or physical sensations influence behaviors and decisions...
...But the real challenge for these participants — and the growing number of advocates of such training — is not acquiring mindfulness. It is finding the time and support necessary to sustain their skills and teach others.
Once back in their work environments, many say it is easy to fall back into old patterns. Dr. Krasner and Dr. Epstein have had to close down some of their programs directed at interns and residents because of financial issues. And a frequent topic of conversation among several of last week’s participants who hoped to teach at their own institutions were how to best introduce these ideas to colleagues who might be skeptical or administrators who might be hesitant to set aside valuable clinical time for training courses or pay for a program that does not generate revenue.
Nonetheless, Dr. Krasner and Dr. Epstein remain optimistic, in large part because they believe that mindful communication is not just another optional skill or fringe fad in health care. “Mindfulness,” Dr. Epstein said, “and the self-awareness it cultivates, is a fundamental ingredient of excellent care.”
Excerpt from "New for Aspiring Doctors, the People Skills Test," by Gardiner Harris, The New York Times, July 10, 2011:
"A pleasant bedside manner and an attentive ear have always been desirable traits in doctors, of course, but two trends have led school administrators to make the hunt for these qualities a priority.
The first is a growing catalog of studies that pin the blame for an appalling share of preventable deaths on poor communication among doctors, patients and nurses that often results because some doctors, while technically competent, are socially inept.
The second and related trend is that medicine is evolving from an individual to a team sport. Solo medical practices are disappearing. In their place, large health systems — encouraged by new government policies — are creating teams to provide care coordinated across disciplines. The strength of such teams often has more to do with communication than the technical competence of any one member."
From "A Restorative Racket," by Charles McGrath, The New York Times, June 30, 2011:
You wouldn't want to listen to that racket all the time, but every now and then an ear-shattering, teeth-jarring blast, so loud you can’t hear yourself think, is sort of restorative. For a moment you have to shut down and reboot whatever was on your mind.
To hear the subtler music of the city, though, you have to teach yourself to listen. Next time you take the subway, turn off your iPod and try some unrecorded avant-garde stuff. I recommend the Times Square station, where incoming trains rumble under your feet, coming to rest with a squeak and a hiss of air brakes that could have been scored by John Cage. If you’re lucky, the guy with the musical saw will be on duty, making his eerie, keening arpeggios, or maybe the Ebony Hillbillies will be playing bluegrass tunes to the accompaniment of indecipherable loudspeaker announcements about delays on the No. 2 uptown. Your feet will start to twitch a little.
Or take a walk along 42nd Street, say, and down Fifth Avenue. After a while you’ll discover that the great ground note of New York — the basso continuo — is traffic noise, which is more tire whoosh than engine sound, punctuated every now and then by the clank of a car passing over a manhole cover. Above that, like a flatted organ chord, is the heavy breathing of idle bus engines, rising up a humming octave or so when the light changes, and the bus accelerates.
And now, if you wave an imaginary baton, here comes some honking, which — unless some bozo is really leaning on the horn — is much more cheerful-sounding than you think you remember — almost like bird song.
There is also foot noise: the clacking of high heels and, at this time of year, the occasional pop of a delayed flip-flop snapping up against the wearer’s heel. And a soft, hard-to-place chittering sound that if you pay close attention turns out to be hundreds of human conversations weaving in and out of one another in a great collective murmuration.