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(CoB) Listen and Ask Questions

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(Preface: This is an addition to the writing “Community of Babel”.)


“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” - Dalai Lama XIV


As a preamble: This was a very difficult writing to create; the irony of “talking” about the importance of “listening” is certainly not lost on me. The problem plagued me; how do I turn “shut your gob and listen” into something entertaining enough to hold attention? How do I grab your interest on what seems like such an inane activity? Then it occurred to me...if you can't see the importance of honing one of your abilities that helps facilitate so much learning, listening, there is literally nothing I could say to change your mind – you wouldn't hear it anyway!

That is the power of listening (or rather, the folly of not listening).

Offering a purpose for communication, we can simplify it as a means to exchange ideas, opinions, and information through various methods. It's important to identify there are several methods, most notably one-way communication (expressing ideas, opinions, and information in one direction with no rebuttal or dispute expected; e.g: lectures and preaching) and two-way communication (an exchange of ideas, opinions, and information flowing in multiple directions; e.g: conversations and debates). There are obviously many other ways to break down communication, but for the purposes of interpersonal interactions, the focus will be the latter explained two-way communication. Observing the basic idea of communication, it's easy to observe the two primary modes: talking (expressing an idea, opinion, and information) and listening (receiving an idea, opinion, and information). It is at this point we can observe the intent of communication: If only one idea, opinion, or source of information is being represented, we tend to see more one-way communication, typically with the intent to impress a single point unopposed; if multiple ideas, opinions, and diverse information sources are represented, two-way communication appears active, typically for the purpose of creating a shared understanding.

Expanding on communication to include basic secondary modes, we can start to see a simple cycle: thought (represented by an idea, opinion, and accumulated information) followed by talking, and listening which leads to processing (adapting newly gained information to create thought, to begin the cycle again). A common adage comes into play, “think before you speak”, reminding us the natural order of communicating while avoiding putting our foot in our mouths. Unfortunately, there's no clever sayings for “stop talking and listen sincerely”, but the process is equally significant! The different modes of communication should be respected as separate activities, not to supersede or negate the prior and latter.

Coming to a point (finally), we apply this concept to the listen mode: sincerely listening is only listening. A mind hyper focused on an existing thought is prone to block out new information just hearing, sometimes even discounting any new information invalid even before hearing it! I think we are all well aware of the difficulties of listening and talking at the same time; how does anyone hear anything if they are trying to express a point already? Of course, if you're processing when you should be listening, you're likely to form opinions before hearing all the information which may lead to assumptions and misunderstandings. Obviously, there may be many more modes to communication, but have no doubt: if you're not actively listening, than you're not listening – nor learning!

In conclusion, listening is by far the most important step in communication in regards to learning, and it is an activity you want to actively use. However, even active listening isn't enough on its own; any information collected is still left to personal interpretation. Asking questions can alleviate areas of uncertain understanding. I'm sure your scholars told you as they certainly told me, “There is no stupid questions”, you should never be afraid to ask a genuine question to better your understanding. Just make sure you ask them at the appropriate time, not when you should be listening! So, remember the key to increasing you ability to learn through conversation: quiet your thoughts, close your mouth, stop processing...


Listen and ask questions!

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@Cade - Most of what you have written is around communication with words. Here is a quote, I have nicked from the internet

"Professor Mehrabian combined the statistical results of the two studies and came up with the now famous—and famously misused—rule that communication is only 7 percent verbal and 93 percent non-verbal. The non-verbal component was made up of body language (55 percent) and tone of voice (38 percent)."

I think I am ok in terms of copyrighting issues, though, as the source is mr. Mehrabian. It just saves me having to try to explain it. I actually do believe that the same applies to Forums like this, where the communication is written, as there are differences in the words used, the composition of sentences etc. that makes up the messaging in the end.

One thing, you have not covered is the fact that many people have certain perceptions that cloud their opinons and hence openness to other points of view. For example; I am a submissive so therefore, I have to behave in this way and I can never become a Dom/Domme to anyone. This is an example to illustrate how perception can prevent a broadening of the mind.

I could use plenty of other examples, but it does illustrate how a certain perception guides our approach to many things. I have found myself that by trying to keep an open mind, I have had incredible insights. For example; I am in my fifties with adult children and my (very) fixed view was that I could not possibly get involved with someone much younger than myself.
Then I got exposed to the situation, which completely freaked me out. I got over that, and have had amazing insights that would otherwise be closed to me. This is a non-kink scenario, but does nevertheless illustrate the point further.

I hope that makes sense?

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Posted (edited)

@Carnelian2 You totally make sense and raise several good points. The Community of Babel project was created originally with the goal of enriching our collective understanding through our primary mode of communication: talking and listening. When I first started writing it, my focal point of observation was the actual community I live in, in which most interactions are made face-to-face or in groups, so you can see why a lot of the content seems geared towards verbal expression. Of course, as the community awareness grows to include this technological age, these same basic concepts still apply online an in more textual forms of communication; talking and listening become more intransitive: talking to represent the many direct ways we express our thoughts (writing, as an example), listening representing the many ways we receive thoughts from others (reading, for example).


As mentioned in the above writing, there are many modes of communication; I chose to simplify it down to the active forms to help ease understanding at this basic level. In a later writing, I'll be further discussing secondary and passive modes of communication. I decided to break it down this way because many of these less direct methods aren't entirely within our control, or more apt, involuntary. Using Mehrabian's theory, body language and tone of voice makes up 93% of communication, but let's consider both of these activities closely. How often are people consciously speaking with their bodies? Unless they were a dancer, I'd say very few. Indeed, unless you choreograph your body language, most people are fairly oblivious they are talking with their bodies, at all. Likewise, our tone of voice is less of a conscious method of communication, typically dependent on our mood or emotional state at any given time. Now, I'm certainly not discounting these as valuable forms of communication, howewer, as we are less conscious of them we have less control over them, which in turn, often makes them more honest.


3 hours ago, Carnelian2 said:

One thing, you have not covered is the fact that many people have certain perceptions that cloud their opinons and hence openness to other points of view.

To the contrary, this would fall under hyper focus of an existing thought, which I did discuss. Perception is your existing understanding which would make up "thought" in the simple communication mode scheme I offered (thought, express thought - talk/write/etc, gather new info - listen/read/etc, process info into a thought, repeat). I agree, if you are hyper focused on your existing thought (perception), you're not likely to hear new information, and might even feel challenged by it - further closing you off from it. I can't obviously solve this issue for anyone, I can just direct their attention to that tendency, which is in part the purpose of this writing.


Thank you for all your excellent input! Once again, you have added a great deal to think about on the subject.

Edited by Cade

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