When we engage in our day to day lives, we often forgot about the unspoken dimension of our relationships with each other. The issue of maintaining healthy relationships by way of conscious interactions tends to come second, third of fourth to other daily priority. Of course for many of us this makes sense; a healthy relationship isn’t going to directly result in dinner being prepared, kids being dropped at school, money being made to put food in our mouths and a roof over our heads. However, its safe to say that healthy relationships make these daily tasks easier and therefore are worth investing time and energy into. Besides, lets face it, life’s tough sometimes and the concoction of an unhealthy relationship combined with the daily pressure of work, money and time, is probably the fundamental cause of many communication breakdowns in our relationship (not just on an intimate level, but also between family, friends and colleagues).
My favourite book so perfectly quotes famous psychologist Freuds (1972) description of the human psyche. That being one that is separated into three parts; the id, the ego and the superego. The book describes Freuds explanation of the human psyche as being part of ‘our primal, animal nature; the superego is the judgement system that our environment (society) instils within us; and the ego as our own representative to the outside world that tends to struggle to maintain a balance between the other two powerful forces’. ( Singer, Michael A. ‘The untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself’’
When we think about the term ‘Communication’; it really is a melting pot of mannerism, gestures, words, language and actions. When a child is born and grows into the early stages of being a toddler; it is said, they are in the most mindful state of being during a lifetime (this could be compared to Freud describes of one part of the human psyche; the id). Babies only communicate with basic primal sounds, which are triggered by a human (animal) feelings. So, for example, a baby cries when it is hungry or is experiencing physical pain. A baby’s expression beyond those primal instincts is absorbed through imitation. And then, as the baby grows from being within the early phases of a toddler; it has absorbed, through imitation and observation, basic forms of communication. We then consciously teach that child how to communicate through language and non-verbal behaviour (it could be said that listening is developed on a more passive level during this stage of life). These teachings derive from a child’s external environment; what is acceptable according to cultural, social or religious values, and what is required in order to function within this environment through education and work. It is this stage of learning and development that could be likened to Freuds description of the supergo.
Now, lets just take a minute to think about the concept of listening. Listening is an interesting part of human development; during our learning and development, we are taught to listen in order to serve the purpose of effective communication hence the development of this action is absorbed more passively as opposed to a direct teaching. We are taught how to communicate verbally and through written expression, we are further taught about non verbal behavioural communication (body language). However, as far as listening goes, we are punished for not listening to commands by our teachers or ineffectively comprehending an instruction. But, what about listening on different levels? more conscious levels ? Whereby we actually engage with the people around us to connect, understand and learn new things based on their experiences. This is not something that forms part of a ‘curriculum’ per say, and could be the clenching point for relationship breakdowns and limitations to life learning experiences.
The Dalai Lama once said ‘When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new’. Has the ego been influenced so much by the superego that it does not comprehend the concept of listening. And, how do we find the internal balance of id and supergo to become better listeners?
We found a wonderful TED talk about conversation. And 10 ways to have a better conversation. This talk has a strong focus on listening and how we can articulate our listening skills to get more from our relationships. Grab a cup of tea and take a minute out of your hectic day to listen! Not read, not talk, not browse your Facebook newsfeed…just listen Celeste Headless TED talk on how to have a better conversation.
Once you have finished listening to this talk, perhaps take a moment to reflect. Reflect on your interactions so far today and how you can improve your conversations having regard to Celestes’ presentation. Move through the rest of your day reminding yourself of what she says – practice listening! Don’t listen to the voice inside your head or the sound of your own voice dominating conversation. Instead, try listening to the people you are conversing with to deepen the connections that you have around you.
And, when today ends and before your rest, think about your first interaction for tomorrow. Who will it be? Your mum? your work colleague? your partner? Your kids ? (by the way, they are very smart beings whom are worth listening to – us adults can take a lot from kids, more than any facebook newsfeed, newspaper or yoga journal!). Consciously make a promise that you will engage in that interaction having regard to what you can take from this discussion.
Day by day, week by week and year by year maybe you won’t have to practice and you will just do. You will become a better listener and with this; you will learn more, you will improve your relationships and transcend your listening. Always remember the wise words of Buddha ‘If your mouth is open, you’re not learning’.
- “Freud, Sigmund. 1927. The Ego and the Id. Authorized translation by Joan Riviere. London: Leonard & Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis.”
- “Singer, Michael A. 2007. The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself. Canada: New Harbinger Publications, Inc”
- Celeste Headlee (2016) TED Talk -10 Ways to have a better conversation. web: www.ted.com/talks/celeste_headlee_10_ways_to_have_a_better_conversation