What are you lending your ears to?

What do you hear at this moment?

The phone that is ringing, a car that is honking, the words exchanged by your colleagues around you or the beep from the printer? Are you listening deep enough to hear the AC in your room or the shuffle of paper or the footsteps of the person who is walking down the corridor near your workstation? It is said that, we are never inattentive.  Our focus is directed by our mind towards our preferences. Some of us who have a higher concentration than others and may often hear a lot more than them. Meditation techniques takes this to a level, where, one can even hear the heart beat.

What is the sole purpose of listening? Should it be directed towards the sound or the silence? How about listening to the silence?  Sounds crazy, isn’t it?

Let’s take a look, at a situation when you are at a meeting. What do you hear? Do you just focus on what is being discussed or there is a voice inside your head, which is constantly speaking in varied tones, different languages, discussing a range of topics? Most of the time, when you are trying to listen to someone, don’t you often get a question in your mind which is in stark opposition to it? If you pay attention, the voice isn’t always yours. It sometimes, tends to belong to the person who is supposed to ask you that question. Hence, at this point of time in the meeting when you have a list of discussions running through your head, why is there a parallel voice, a devil’s advocate running at the same time?

Quantum physics says there is a space between even the closest object. In the same view let’s consider the silence between the two sounds inside your head? Why do we need to run this exercise? Well, we are programmed through our upbringing and education, therefore we have formed our opinions, beliefs and paradigms based on this acquired knowledge. It may not be easy for us to segregate them in a busy life. However, mapping the thoughts would allow us to understand the relation between them. Consequently, we respond instead of reacting. The meeting in which you are being accused of non-performance or where the errors made by your team are being discussed, is one where you need to respond.

Hear your thoughts when you receive praises and how buoyant you feel. Is there just a ‘Yay’ shouting inside your mind? Alternatively, there are other words such as ‘look, I did it’, ‘I knew I will make it’, ‘ beware everyone, here comes me’ or even a ‘now, don’t you dare mess with me’ Observe the sound and voice. Is it your voice? Or does it belong to the person from whom you expect some thing or at least want to be acknowledged? It’s important to notice who is talking to you inside your head at different points of time.

Now step back into the meeting and identify the source of those voices inside your head. Ignoring them would result in recurrence, until you pay attention. Hence, acknowledge them clearly and then park them aside to be dealt with later. Now focus on the discussion by your fellow attendees. Listen to what they say without making any judgements or tagging them to different compartments. Accept it as a human tendency to draw conclusions immediately. Halt, resist jumping the gun What you hear from your colleagues is just the tip of the iceberg. If you allow yourself to be conditioned at an early stage, you will miss the development and the big picture. Your experience and maturity have been programmed to identify patterns and segregate them into compartments. Let that happen, still choose to remain unaffected by it. Observe complete objectivity, until you have every data that you would require for decision making. 99.99% of the times, the thought that struck you at the first moment will stand true. However, remaining objective will enable a conscious decision making. Here ‘conscious’ implies being aware of the other parties much more than what your presumption would have allowed you to. Thus, it would become a higher order execution. It would then enable the start of a non-argumentative discussion. Consequently it will cut down the drama from your life.

During a presentation, you must have seen it repeatedly, that few members tend to fall out of the group. Why does it happen? What are they listening to when you are presenting? Even without exchanging any words, did you hear the same questions inside your head, which is why you could identify them as the ones falling out and have an idea, as to why it happened? Let’s see how does this works in a stress situation. Here’s a question asked by R. Joshi to the article Survival Strategies; Sink or swim.

“I would like to ask one question. When you are continuously not been valued, you may motivate yourself for some time.  However, how would you sustain, when you run out of your inner motivation?”

Replacing an external reaction by focusing on inner growth, may initially seem to be a neutral stage. Ekhart Tolle, discussed that, a neutral state doesn’t mean that you don’t care. It only means that you refuse to react. You halt and focus internally to check how you can turn it in a better direction. Here’s my experience while working on this principle. I used to prepare Power Point Slides for a reporting manager, who would give odd and negative feed backs about my skills. He used to make fun of my skills in front of others. It used to run me down and rob my sense of self-efficacy which made me sulk a lot. Then, I decided to brush my skills and enrolled for Presentation skills grooming program. It did not give me, any reward or any special recognition. My boss remained apathetic to all my efforts. However, during a town hall, to my surprise, I found him presenting the Power Point Slides prepared by me. Eventually, as my career progressed, I graduated into different roles with other organizations. Today, even though, there are no professional bindings, he still keeps in touch with me. The choice to listen to my surrounding accentuated into a neutral response externally, followed by a personal development. This earned me respect, strengthening my relationship with peers and other superiors in that office. Today when I look back, I can only see rich takeaway with added certification for presentation skills and a respectable relationship with seniors.

We are barely silent, inside our heads.  Tense moments, attenuates to this sound getting louder and coarser. During such situations, we need to program ourselves to listen to our surroundings, to know what will work for us in the long term. There is a statement that goes in my mind, when I hear it during such time, “I think I can. I can. I can. I know I will. I will, I will!” Just as, in the scheme of things, what is unbearable at a particular point of time, will soon cease to have any meaning. Similarly, sounds seamlessly transform to abundant variants creating echelons of responses.

So what are you listening to now?

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