An exceptionally long message popped up on my email the other morning. It was as long as a blog post, perhaps an article. It was attached to a series of related missives.
It might well have been in the dictionary under “TMI” (that is, too much information).
It presented details of an affair the correspondent, unmarried and in a longstanding relationship presumably monogamous, had with another individual who is married.
Unsurprisingly, it ended in tears for some if not all involved or touched by it.
It’s not entirely clear what the writer–whom I’ve not met in person–had in mind in connecting with me on this. At the least they sought sympathy. Perhaps they intended that I would share the negative information with others. That is to say, I would spread the dirt about one participant in a forlorn extramarital adventure, as recounted by the disappointed party.
When I declined the opportunity to trash the other party, the aggrieved acquaintance fired back. presuming that my forbearance meant my overlooking manifest injustices, malfeasance and general stupidity.
I responded that the one conclusion I could express with confidence is that no one involved emerged well from the dalliance and related activities.
I made explicit what was already implicit: I would decline to become involved.
That set off a cascade of negativity, to the effect that they were not asking me to become involved... I was not being asked to publicly weigh in so my declining to be involved was misplaced, even ludicrous.
Listening is Involvement
In fact, listening–really listening–is involvement. It requires focused attention. It necessarily precludes alternative focus of your conscious and subconscious energies.
If you analyze your life as about service–one way or another, you’re serving someone every moment of your life–then listening, truly engaged listening, is surely service. It’s engagement, it’s caring, it’s even love in one sense or another.
At any given moment, truly focused listening is an exclusive commitment.
That’s being involved.
It’s not a small thing. And if a particular person doesn’t recognize its significance, wouldn’t one be well-advised to redirect that involvement toward others who find value in it?
If you’re listening, really listening, you’re expressing a priority. You’re making a gift of yourself.
You’re moving into someone else’s world. And you’re bringing someone else into yours.
Is it fair to surmise that individuals who don’t get this may themselves not be serious listeners? As such, they cannot appreciate fully when others gift their undivided attention.
At some point one must make decisions, set priorities.
How do you decide when to listen? How will you decide how to apportion your involvement?
Who Are You Serving?
How Can You Best Serve?
If You’re Listening, You’re Involved