Wednesday, January 11, 2006

An epiphany on listening

Memorable Quote:
“Real listening is a willingness to let the other person change you.”


Never have your dog stuffed and other things I’ve learned by Alan Alda, p. 161, (chapter 14, "Me and Hecuba"), copyright 2005 by Mayflower Productions Inc., ISBN: 1-4000-6409-0.


Rehearsing a part for the play The Apple Tree, Mr. Alda struggles to “listen” to his partner on stage so the dialogue between them seems natural, not forced. The answer, he discovers, is in how you as your character listen to the other character and react to the situation, not just the words.


This brings to me an epiphany.

As a writer, I’ve always struggled in an interview with not just asking a question and writing down the answer, then getting ready to ask the next question. Somehow you have to listen to the answer and see what other questions it raises. If it doesn’t raise a new question, you can go on to the next question on your list.

Furthermore, I’ve struggled as a person – often as a husband and father – to actually listen to the person talking, not getting ready to talk when it’s your turn again but to do something constructive with what you hear. What I’ve learned from Mr. Alda is that in all listening, you have to be looking to make a change – a change in perception or the way you look about a subject as a writer, as well as a change in what you hope to achieve from talking with a spouse or child. You can’t go into it with predetermined outcomes but hope you will hear what will make you do what is right.

Listening is often about solving problems, and often to solve a problem you have to first understand it. Sometimes you can’t know the problem until you’ve listened to someone describe it.


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