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Are You Actually Listening?

Hello Beautiful Humans!

How many times have you been in trainings, classes or workshops, particularly for leadership or management, where you've gone through the key essentials of 'Active Listening'? They go through the typical aspects of what Active Listening is; watching for facial expressions and body movements, speech, cadence, and, of course, listening to what is not being said, just to name a few. What I would like to talk about is not Active Listening, but Actual Listening. There is far more to a conversation than just hearing and speaking.

Recently, I had the pleasure of hearing a presentation by a fellow coach, A. Such, who utilized the Chinese character 'Ting' to demonstrate what he had learned in our class at Coach U. Since then I did some research and found, as per the norm, there are tons of sites addressing the different parts of this traditional Chinese symbol as it pertains to listening. I've cited a few of them below as they all vary slightly.

I decided to jump on this bandwagon and give my own perception of what this symbol means to me in regards to a conversation, any conversation really, but with particular focus on my conversations with clients and in business in general.

First let me say, that I do not speak Chinese. My understanding of the symbols used to create the Ting character are based only on my own interpretation of them and what they mean to me and not on an actual translation of the character. I could be way off base and would gladly love to hear from anyone who does speak Chinese and would like to elaborate on the individual or overall meaning of the character in the comments below.

Let's break how the Ting character relates to Actual Listening.

Ear - This one is obvious, obviously! We listen with our ears, but listening is more than just hearing what is being said. This goes back to those workshop and training events. Listening to the tone of speech, the words being used and how they are being used. Listening for the cadence, or speed at which one is talking and what I always consider the most important is listening for what is going unsaid. For instance, if a person says "that's not normal." What is not being said here? I.e.: What's normal? Normal according to who?

King or Dominant One - This one, admittedly, is a little more difficult to interpret, and I can tell you that those who have tried defining it all seem to see it a bit differently, but I see it as this; the person who is actually speaking. Giving them the dominant position in a conversation while I take the submissive role of just listening.

Mind - Think! Giving understanding to process and reflect. The meaning behind what is being said. Being thoughtful and curious. I'm sure you've heard the expression, 'in one ear and out the other'!? When you are using your mind to listen you are retaining what is being said and processing it for better understanding. You are staying present and not allowing other thoughts (like; I need to get milk, Larry is a jerk or did I turn the stove off) to get in the way of listening.

Eyes - This one also takes us back to those trainings and workshops in that we want to watch the speaker. What is their body language telling us? What types of expressions are on their face? How are they delivering the information they are trying to convey?

One-ness or To Become One - Some of translated this as focus. Focusing on the conversation at hand and not allowing your mind to drift and so on. I see this in a similar light, but slightly different. To me it's more about being present. Being "one" with the conversation. Being an active partner in the conversation.

Heart - To me, this means listening with intent. Being authentic to oneself and actually caring about what is being said and who is saying it. Taking the message to heart for careful consideration.

Now, like I said above, not everyone agrees with my interpretation, maybe you have a different idea of what the various parts of the Ting character mean to you in relation to listening. (If so, I'd love to hear about it in the comments) The point that I am trying to make, using the Ting character as an example, is that there are so many facets to things we do each day that we often take for granted. When we stop consider all of the moving parts of something that we often consider as simplistic or mundane, it starts to take on a whole new meaning.

Challenge: What is your interpretation of the Ting character or other characters that might represent something we often view as being self explanatory?

Morals of the Story:

  1. Actual Listening requires more than just your hearing with your ears and seeing with your eyes.

  2. There's more to a conversation than just speaking and hearing.

  3. The Chinese character, Ting, demonstrates Actually Listening by including symbols for ear, dominant one, mind, eye, one-ness and heart.

  4. Although we look at a conversation in a simplistic light, there are far more facets to consider than just speaking and hearing.


Learn to Listen image of Ting character:

Other sites that talk about the Ting character:

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