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Listening: Key to Good relationships and good writing and performing


Learning to Listen with Significant Others by Bob Bohlken, PhD
Images Unlimited Publishing
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Listening is the stock in trade of writers and performers. It is how we fill up with ideas, emotions and voices to use in our performances whether on stage or on paper. Unfortunately, this does not sometimes carry over into personal life–for me. So, when I received the copy of Learning to Listen, I was excited to see by the title that it is aimed at the personal. While the book is meant to be a workshop on paper for couples, I found it helpful as an individual.

Listening involves hearing and interpreting what is heard. Beyond that it means giving respect to the other person’s words and ideas. It is a necessary skill–hard enough to learn and practice in real life, but imperative if we are to truly communicate, the respond to the heart message that is being sent to us.
The exercises contained had the additional bonus of being helpful in my trade–both as a performer and a writer–ways to hone listening skills and bring voices and thoughts of others into my work. Using the exercises in the abstract that is working through them as if you are one of your characters offers many insights into the character and how to work out dialogue for the listeners. I particularly liked the section on non-verbal communication and the section on empathetic listening. The exercises accompanying that segment are rich with information for inspiration for writers.

For instance, this prompts or exercise: As an empathetic listener, what is your most effective non-verbal response to the 5th question in the exercises? “What physical element affects your empathetic listening situation the most?

Then Bohlken lists several examples including eye level, furniture or artifacts in the room, area space , use of absolute quantifiers and modifiers (presumably in the language used by the speaker).
These exercises are gems for a writer–helps to bring more depth to the conversations of your characters as well as wonderful aids to making communication more effective in your personal life. Bohlken is well qualified to direct us to better ways to listen. He has a PhD in interpersonal communication and is in the Hall of Fame in the International Listening Association. http://www.listen.org.

Listening is more than just hearing the words being spoken. Such listening to a lecture means simply taking in information. Listening to a person speaking to you is far more significant.
At times, listening means simply taking it upon ourselves to be still–in mind, body and spirit. Psalm 46:10 tells us that God Himself demands such listening. We cannot really hear Him unless we listen in that way focused on Him and not on ourselves. This is also true for listening to others, especially those we love. The focus needs to be on them, not on what we are going to say next. One of my faults, one this book tries to help me with–and in the process of doing that, also helps my characters on the page and stage to learn the same lesson.