We recently heard someone say that he only listens to talk radio stations that agree with his point-of-view. We shared with him that we often listen to radio, or watch TV programs, that tend to have editorial perspectives different from our own. We do this as an exercise in” listening for possibility” and to broaden our current perspective.
He looked surprised and said, “I listen for assessment to determine if they agree with me. I get too upset when I listen to those other programs.” (He went on to name several programs that he would never listen to.)
Listening for only those perspectives that agree with ours is called “listening for assessment.” As we listen, we are constantly asking ourselves: “Do I agree or disagree?” with the information we hear. This type of listening too often feeds the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) ™. We react to the opinions or viewpoints we don’t agree with as a type of Persecutor, while listening to those with whom we agree as a Rescuer – because they have the “right” answer.
In our own relationship, we have noticed that when one of us falls into the Victim role, we listen for information to confirm our feelings of powerlessness. If one of us is feeling persecuted by the other, we listen for information to confirm that the other one is blaming or trying to control us. When rescuing, we both listen for situations where we can be helpful – sometimes overly helpful – that keeps the other one in a victim or less-than-powerful role. Once we fall into these DDT roles, we listen for information to confirm the role we are playing.
Listening for possibility and new perspectives allows us to step into the TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) ™ roles of Creator, Challenger and Coach. In this type of listening, our intent is to learn and grow, which means we are open to new ideas and new information – regardless of whether or not we agree with what we hear. This requires us to be non-attached to our current way of thinking in order to hear something new or different.
This is much easier said than done! The way we think about a subject or issue becomes our “truth.” That truth gives us comfort and a sense of certainty. Listening to information that might “rock your boat” can be very difficult to hear. In order to become the natural Creators, Challengers and Coaches we all are, listening for possibility – rather than listening to agree or disagree – is an essential practice to cultivate.