The article is about listening. The premise is this: why would we divulge our true thoughts and feelings to someone who isn’t interested enough to listen properly—who isn’t interested? Perhaps they’re more interested in telling us about themselves; so many are those. For these people we listen to them intently, but give them a ‘safe’ sanitised version of ourselves.
Many of our social situations, whether within family or at work or elsewhere, feature people we interact with who are less interested than they could be. This is a fact of life. We know, ourselves, there are many blockers to listening effectively. Many times we’re just not interested.
It’s the lack of interest that concerns us most.
There is another very good reason not to divulge too much with those not listening well enough. The answers we give to half-interested questions are less than the truth, because we sense the other party isn’t interested enough. There’s not enough authenticity created inviting us to open up. The difference is, when we have opened up to uninterested people, as we reflect later, we may feel we haven’t done justice to ourselves; that the half-truths we told were somehow a denial or a fabrication. And why would we want to deny or fabricate? No, we just trusted when it wasn’t safe to trust.
It’s better by far to choose, beforehand, what this person before us should need to hear.
Only Listeners Get Our Fuller Disclosures
The heading is the principle. Only those who can demonstrate an active commitment to listening to us deserve to receive the full us. Likewise, we can only expect people to be completely truthful and open with us when we demonstrate our care for them by being interested enough to listen intently.
This is an effective rule because issues important enough—on both sides—get sufficient attention.
There’s an important dignity involved in this principle, too. We remain in control of what we give out about ourselves. Pretenders need not apply for our trust and authenticity because they haven’t first proved they are interested enough to listen. We shouldn’t feel compelled to betray ourselves.
In a self-reflective moment we understand the importance of listening: we, too, should endeavour never to be a pretender; to be genuinely interested enough to listen, especially after we’ve asked questions. We should be interested enough to listen to the answers given.
To feel that we’ve been listened to is a privileged, yet relatively rare, state of being. We’re right to protect ourselves before people who aren’t interested enough to listen properly. Our trust and authenticity belong to those who demonstrate real interest. As far as true openness is concerned, pretenders need not apply.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.