Saturday, August 29, 2020

Active Listening by Writing

We live in a world where we are often more worried about whether or not we are heard than we are about whether we are hearing/listening.

You see it in conversation.  People frequently interrupt each other to get their own opinion vocalized without really paying any attention to what was said.  All they really heard was the general topic area, which triggered some sort of response in their brain that they must now be sure they can press their opinions forward - even if it isn't appropriate for the given moment.

I fully recognize this same tendency in myself.  In fact, I suspect I was pretty bad at this at one time.  But, a strange thing happened - I grew up a little bit (even if I am still 10).  So, apparently we have a rash of 'not growing up' in this world. 

(note: I am still acutely aware that I fail to listen sometimes.  It's part of being human and continuously learning and trying to improve)

Lots and lots of words

Over time, I have written lots and lots of words.  In this blog alone, there are plenty of words (and pictures).  Just look at the illustration below taken from a couple of weeks ago from our blog.  As of this writing, we are sitting at 158 blog posts for 2020.  We are approaching 1400 posts with over one million words worth of writing.  NO... I did not (and will not) count them.  I know I said I liked numbers and counting - but not that much.  Really.

Who will read them?

I have broached this topic before - who actually reads these posts?  Remember, this comes from a person who did write a dissertation for his PhD - lots of words there again.  I suspect there *might* be one or two people in this world (other than myself) who read the entire dissertation.  But, in those cases, it was their job to read it.

I ask this same question when I write for Pesticide Action Network.  Who reads the things I write for PAN?  When they read these things, how WELL do they read them and how WELL do they end up understanding them?  Does it motivate them to think about something carefully?  Will it challenge them to learn a bit more and adjust their opinion even a tiny bit?  

I don't know.  And maybe it isn't important that I know this?  After all, am I writing so other people will read?  

The answer to that last question is my typical "yes and no" sort of answer.  I think you'll understand as you read more of this blog.

Writing reflects my listening and learning

I took the writing of my dissertation very seriously.  I realized at the time that very few people would ever read it.  Yes, I guess I did have a few fantasies that what I would write could become something bigger and more "important."  But, I knew these thoughts for what they were - fantasies.  Even with that knowledge, I still worked very hard to write what I felt was an excellent dissertation.

Why?  Because, by writing, I was exercising my listening and learning skills.  It was a process to put all that I had read, all that I had collected in research and all that I had assimilated into my knowledge base into a cohesive form.  In effect, it became a reflection of active listening and active awareness regarding things that I was trying very hard to understand as well as I possibly could.

And now for the dose of humility.

I was encouraged to submit an article in a professional journal.  Wow, get people to think about the results of my hard work?  Wonderful!  To do that I had to condense my 150+ page dissertation into .... five to seven pages.

First reaction?  "You've got to be kidding me!"

Then I actually accomplished that task - and got it published.

New reaction?  "Why did I write so much in the first place when I could get the point across in seven pages?"

The answer to that question after getting published?  "Because I thought that was what I needed to do - even if it wasn't what I actually needed to do."

My thoughts on it now?  "Writing the original piece was part of my growth and learning process.  The short article was the expression of the resulting mastery of the topic - evidence that I had listened and learned and could succinctly summarize all of that in hopes that others might build from there."

Doesn't that sound like a silly academic?  Alas for me.

So here I am, writing some more

I am still listening and learning - and I am still writing to try and make sense of it all.  I could certainly type all of this or hand-write it into a journal that I would not share with anyone else.  But, then, I would miss the potential opportunity to listen to others and learn more as they respond to my thoughts.  And, perhaps, because there is the potential for some interaction, I am encouraged to explore things I would not bother exploring if it were only for me.  

Maybe something I write will encourage someone else to speak so I can listen.  Perhaps something I write will bring about a new line of thought for another person who might then move forward and do something good.  And, I will freely admit that there are times I hope I can help someone to learn and there are other times I hope I can be a positive or useful influence for others.  I do still have the heart of a teacher and I do still care enough to try to get people to think harder about things.

How much longer will I write?  After all, I have gone through periods where I just did not want to....  I suspect I will go through similar times in the future.  If you take a stroll through the blog, you can probably take some guesses about what leads to more or less writing.  There are numerous periods where the content seems pretty obligatory - after all, this is a farm blog and it is used to inform our customers.  Then, there are times.. like this year since March or the prior year's January...  Times when I seem to have a lot to say.  But, maybe that's because I am in the mood to learn - and I hope I can infect others with the need to learn and grow as well?

That's my story for now and I'm sticking to it.  Until I hear something that makes me consider otherwise.  Then I might write about that.

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