Negative Listening

Can we listen to someone as she is, without manipulating her to speak one way or another? There are two ways we can push people. “Positive” listening agrees with her constantly. We nod, murmur “mhmm”, and smile, and she experiences our unconditional positive regard (for what we like to hear). “Negative” listening is where we listen waiting for things to pounce on. “Ahah.” Having found what we disagree with, we disagree. We try to tell why she is “wrong” (in our opinion) to think what she thinks and feel what she feels. This is not a kind of listening where we are open to her. We ask her to be open to us and our “higher” wisdom without reciprocating and being open to her. In fact, we ask her to stop listening to herself!
What if there is another kind of listening, where we allow ourselves to be changed and influenced by the other person? After all, isn’t that the danger of listening? The reality of that person might bump into our house of thoughts, making it fall down. Our intellectual exoskeleton might fall off, revealing us underneath. Without the armor of thoughts and ideas, we encounter the unknown of the other.
Maybe there’s another kind of listening, which neither approves nor disapproves, but simply explores, wanting to become intimate with the not-me. Maybe there’s another kind of encounter where we no longer argue about conscious ideas but feel together toward the inner depths underneath the words. Letting go of listening from the outside so we can listen from the inside, from within the wordless music of our being resonating with the inner music of the other person. Waiting for words to arise from the wordless. An openness to the unknown, the mystery of you.

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