The Art Of Listening


When I was in the Fire Brigade and worked in the Security Industry before the advent of mobile phones we used to use ‘RT’ (Radio Transmitters) where you would talk with the ‘transmit’ button pressed down and take your finger off the button to listen to what the other side of the conversation had to say.  This procedure has great relevance to learning and training in the Martial Arts today.

Do you ever have that conversation with someone where you are acutely aware that they’re not listening to what you are saying but are only waiting to talk?  Or maybe they’re just distracted by something else or their own thoughts and emotions?

When I’m teaching, I’m highly aware of how much of what I’m saying is or isn’t going in because the ‘listener’ has their finger jammed on that ‘transmit’ button and can’t take in what I’m saying.  Even though they think that they’re giving the visual impression that they’re paying attention it’s usually patently obvious that they’re not.

Some are waiting to tell you how much they know or what their interpretation of your teaching is without allowing it to ‘soak in’… some are blocking their understanding because they are feeling nervous and inadequate and some are distracted.

So many people miss the obvious in communication because of this – let alone all the subtle and subliminal signs and blunder through life not understanding that others can see their arrogance and lack of empathy.

We don’t only listen with our ears, our senses are far more complex than that, we listen to the words, the inflection, we feel the emotion behind them, we read the body language that accompanies them and our prior knowledge of the person to understand what it is that they are actually trying to say.

When we touch, we listen predominately through the body utilising our ‘touch reflex’ and right-brained peripheral vision, reading the energy being emitted, the physical and mental attitude, balance and intention of the other person whether it’s love, friendship, tuition or violent intention, the method’s the same.  The more that we have studied our own attributes and failings in this way, the more efficiently we can read other people.

To become a good student, instructor, friend, lover, training partner, and worthy opponent we need to be able to develop and fine-tune these empathic skills.  The more we are able to do this the more we are able to ‘work under the radar’ of others to either help or hinder them.  If they are not listening too hard we are able to convince them that what we want them to do was their idea, this is a very helpful skill in the security trade and can be helpful in teaching.  In politics it’s called ‘nudge’ politics, creating subtle shifts in the public’s viewpoint.

If you are able to sense or feel the opponents balance, lack of alignment, lack of concentration and awareness you are able to distract, manipulate and win the fight even before the opponent knows it’s on.

Start working on these skills today, listen to your own mind and body and study their signals and nuances.  Whoever talks to you, pay full attention to them and make sure that you have your finger well and truly off the ‘transmit’ button and ask yourself what they are really trying to tell you beyond the words.  Listen to your own root, connection, alignment, breathing, emotions and attention span and then study them in others

I guarantee that it will transform your learning, training and relationship with other students, instructors, work colleagues and those in your personal life.

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