Nobody listens anymore

Am I the last person on the planet who actually monitors how much they talk versus how much they actively listen during a ‘conversation?’ Somewhere along the way, dialogues left the building and we are stuck listening to people unload monologues on us without any clue or consideration. The sound you hear is the energy leaking from your body as they drone on sucking the very life out of your ears. And in the rare moments they aren’t talking, they just zone out from actually listening to you respond while they plot what they are about to say next. I know you are aware of this phenomenon. And I know you are either a perpetrator or a victim of it.

Blogs and Twitter and Facebook are all manifestations of this imbalanced sense of entitlement where everyone now feels that every minutiae of their life or every opinion they have is worth reading, whether they know how to put a complete sentence together or not. At least with written monologues, you have the choice to ignore or skip over them. Just as sleazy fashion trends have made it harder to tell a high schooler from a hooker, actual writers now have a much harder time reminding everyone – “Hey, I’m the professional here!”

Here’s a book that simply explains conversation hogs as ‘stealers of energy.” That’s what they do – like an energy vampire, they are sucking your attention from you like blood from your veins. If you are a good listener, you’re well aware just how much energy it takes to actively listen to someone. To care enough about that relationship to follow what they are saying, invest some emotional concern, and maybe even ask a relevant question or two, instead of hijacking the conversation to go off on your own tangent.

Rhythm, Relationships, and Transcendence: Patterns in the Complex Web of Life by Toru Sato reminds us that, on a subatomic level, all matter is just a boundless bundle of energy, and “the only boundary between you and the other person is really a boundary made in your mind.” So why would you want to steal energy from yourself?

“Energy flows where attention goes.” And attention “is the basis for acceptance, respect, influence and care, all of which we crave in our daily lives … We feel energized when others pay attention to us … We feel depleted of energy when others do not pay attention to us.”

“We live in a rhythmic cycle of giving and receiving in all of our relationships … We give and take energy in varying degrees. We can take massive amounts of energy if we take little by little for a prolonged period of time without giving back. This is why we feel exhausted if someone talks to us incessantly for a long time without letting you have your turn. This incessantly speaking person is not yelling at us or physically assaulting us but we feel tired and very lower in energy after a while. This usually does not work well in a relationship because there is no rhythm of giving and taking. There is just taking.”

“We live in a competitive world. We compete for ‘energy.’ This is why many of us want to be famous, want to do heroic things, want to be powerful or influential, want more money. These are all means to gain energy. Being a hero or being famous makes us attract a lot of attention and admiration and sometimes respect. In other words, we receive energy.”

The book goes on to explain how to balance this rhythm of taking and giving, and that the more we let down the artificial boundary between each other and become attentive in a more balanced way, the more we can share consciousness and feel unity. It can happen on an individual basis, and it can happen with groups, countries and even this whole rocking planet.

And it all begins when you start to realize what you are taking from someone when you dump without listening, and what you gain when you trade attention and respect in balance.

Try it sometime. Try it all the time. And read this book for some more insights that can reduce the conflicts in your life to a simpler understanding of the way we compete for energy, and how we can transcend the anxiety and separation such competition creates.

— A. Wayne Carter

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