Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘authentic listening’

Who Has ‘Text Neck?’

A recent article in ‘The Week’ magazine entitled, ‘The Text Neck’ refers to an ‘epidemic’ that is worth becoming aware of – the craze of texting – which for some has devolved
into a dependency behavior. The latest research on the topic by back surgeons has concluded that those who are constantly looking down at their phones to text are subject to neck cramps, pinched nerves, herniated discs and even early degeneration of the spine especially in the younger generation.

The reason for the effect is quite logical when we think about how our bodies are designed. The normal head weighs between 10-12 pounds. Using computer modeling the researches found that when the head is angled or bowed at 60 degrees (looking down from an upright position to text for example) the strain on the neck increases to 60 pounds – about the weight of four bowling balls! Our bodies simply cannot support that weight over time.

For those who have become addicted to texting (yes – this has become a recognized addiction which has even been linked to increased depression) maybe it’s time to share this information with them. The data is in – permanent physical damage can happen when texting becomes habitual. Further, when we replace active engagement with other people to mere texting we lose our ability to read social cues or develop a stronger sense of self.

When someone creates a limited comfort zone around them using texting as the main way to communicate with the rest of the world they become less rather than more. Real communication cannot be reduced to a quirky three or four word response. Deeper, more engaged communication is critical for healthy family relationships as well as success in the work place. But how does someone develop the critical skills of active communication if they don’t practice them continuously in the real world setting?

Often we can observe families at restaurants or on the mall and the parents as well as the kids are not interacting with each other but are busy texting or playing a game on their phones. The opportunity for true human connection is lost as their fingers tap out their current abbreviated comment to someone – anyone – and they anxiously await a response.They seem to be saying to themselves … ‘I am important to someone out there – just watch and ‘they’ will respond to my latest comment.’ Their phone has become their ‘go to friend’ and they have become so dependent upon it that they can have a melt down if their battery is low. Really?

The benefit of this powerful technology cannot be downplayed. It has changed the world for the better. It can make us more efficient and effective when we need to communicate with someone quickly and even allows us to share something funny with a friend without interrupting them at the precise moment we send our text. However, like anything in life the question boils down to balance and moderation. If those two concepts sound a bit boring to you – think about living without them in your life. Not a pretty picture!

If each of us would consider these implications in our own lives and take the time to gently encourage our family members to consider them as well we would improve our ability to communicate authentically and see the deeper value in the human experience.

If you try to discuss these points with someone you care about who seems to have become addicted to texting and they refuse to listen or engage in the discussion you know you have hit a nerve. That can be a good thing if you don’t give up. After all, we know that sometimes a point needs to be repeated four or five times to get through to a reluctant learner. Don’t we owe it to those we truly care about to share information that would help them in the long run?

Have a great few days!

Lend Me Your Ear

This is the season for giving, a season that challenges us to be our very best selves. When we pass the Salvation Army volunteers ringing the silver holiday bells with the small red buckets swinging on their stands we remember to dig into our pockets and give a little extra to help another. This type of donation is visible. It makes us feel good just knowing that in our own small way we are helping out a more needy soul.

There is another, equally important, type of donation… the fully giving of our self through our time and attention when someone needs a shoulder to lean on or an authentic ear to listen. After all, to be silenced or ignored by others is not due to the lack of a voice but rather the lack of a listener. It is the toughest form of rejection. When we care enough to fully engage ourselves in listening to another we honor and validate them – maybe even ease their burden ever so slightly for the moment. The very least that can happen when we take the time to stop what we are doing and listen is that a little time will elapse and a greater understanding will be imparted between fellow travelers. Sometimes that moment of exchange can make a world of difference. When we hear the uncomfortable stories from others who seem to be living uncomfortable lives do we really take the time to respect them as human beings or do we rush to judgment thinking to ourselves, ‘if they would just do this or that their lives wouldn’t be so difficult.’ Maybe so – maybe not. After all, we don’t walk in their shoes and are not carrying the same set of burdens or lessons to learn. We are busy with our own. Is it possible that these human beings just need a moment of our time to be heard and recognized? It is a small price to ask and even smaller price to pay.

Each of us benefits from a listening ear, an unglazed eye, and a genuine interest in what we have to say from time to time. It is the universal need that unites us as humans. Truly being heard is the highest form of recognition we can give to others. The Hallmark company used to have a saying about their greeting cards which speaks volumes, ‘When you care enough to send the very best.’ When we apply this thought to our daily encounters with others over the next few weeks, caring enough to be gentle, thoughtful and patient -to give the very best of who we are even in the midst of a stressful season that requires a million and one tasks to accomplish we make a huge difference and elevate the vibrations of our world.

Have a great few days!

Do You Hear What I Hear?

When we ASK others for information or their view on a circumstance then sincerely listen to their response we give and receive power from the exchange of energy. I believe the most valuable thing for a person is to be heard. We all want someone to care enough to inquire about us, show concern and ask clarifying questions about what we are doing in our lives. Yet, many times we find that they are so busy talking about their life that they forget about us! If all of us gain value by being heard it behooves us to model good listening skills ourselves and, at times, take the risk to point out to others if they are not honoring us or themselves by listening. You may be thinking to yourself, I might hurt their feelings if I comment. You may that is true but ultimately you will be helping them much more in the long run.

I am just finishing a book entitled, The End of Your Life Book Club, written by Will Schwalbe. In this memoir he and his mother are consummate readers so during her battle with cancer they formed a book club consisting of just the two of them. During each of her chemo treatments they would discuss the latest book they were reading and offer different perspectives on it. Like everything in life both age and experience can cause two people, regardless of how close they are, to have different perspectives. That is the beauty of the give and take of authentic conversations with others. Listening to what they have to say makes us more not less and gets the wheels going in our minds. We see things in a slightly more enlighten and broader view.

Schwalbe mentions in the epilogue that after his mom’s death he ‘would suddenly be seized with paralyzingly guilt over something (he) neglected to tell her…eventually (he) came to realize that the greatest gift of their book club was that it gave (him) time to ASK her things (and fully listen to her thoughts) not TELL her things.’

Whether we are living or dying the most important thing is to have someone who genuinely cares enough to listen to us. We feel more valued as a person and have the opportunity to hear our own thinking. Often, this can be one of the greatest therapies in the world. We realize that, in the far reaches of our minds, we know the answers to the more troubling things in our life when we experience the simple act of voicing the concern to others and listening to their response. It helps us clarify our next steps and we feel more empowered.

What we give out to the Universe comes back to us double fold. It sort of makes listening right up there on the 10 most important things we can do for ourselves and others. In our fast paced world, developing the skill to be an empathic listener is good for our minds and our souls.

Wouldn’t be wonderful if everyone could become aware of the significance of developing heartfelt listening skills. Maybe you can be the gentle nudge to help others consider ASKING rather than TELLING as we all live out our life lessons.

Have a great few days!