Mon, July 22

Lazy, reactive listening

Before I understood about lazy, reactive listening, I used to play the victim. My default response to a situation that felt uncomfortable was "Why does this always happen to me?" Feelings of self-pity quickly took over, and I would wallow in them.

Out of habit, you, too, probably have an automatic pattern of listening that kicks in when you're in the middle of a challenging conversation or an uncomfortable situation. This way of hearing yourself and others results in a reaction. Words pop out of your mouth before you even think about them. Or they run through your thoughts so quickly that they land in your feelings before you know what hit you.

Take a look at these ways that automatic, reactive listening may show up for you. See if you can identify which ones have attached themselves to you.

"It's not my fault." "How come I didn't know?" (Blame)

"I don't think I can. What if . . . (the worst) happens?" (Fear)

"I absolutely refuse!" (Resistance/avoidance)

"Why does this always happen to me?" "It never works out." (Victim)

"There's too much to do. I'll never catch up!" "I never have (or do) enough." (Overwhelm)

"Do it my way or hit the highway." "There's a better way." "I already knew that." (Being right)

"Someone has to do it." (Martyr)

"I win, you lose." "Who do you think you are?" "I'll show you." "Prove it." "Been there, done that." (Superiority, inferiority)

"Whatever!" (Dismissal)

The automatic reactive listening usually develops sometime during childhood. Our home environment helped to form it. Most of us grew up with adults who modeled the above reactions. They never allowed or encouraged us to show ourselves as powerful, competent little people.

You learn to overcome your lazy, reactive listening by first becoming aware of it. You can increase your awareness by writing down, every day for the next week, all of the automatic reactions that you have toward others or toward your situations.

If you have a hard time naming your reaction, keep a list of the above "lazy listenings" in your pocket or purse and refer to it. Then write down the ones that you resorted to during the day. Add more of your own to the list. This will increase your awareness.

Remember, automatic reactive listening is a default listening. Unless you pay close attention and consciously choose a different reaction, you will find yourself visiting this place within yourself again and again. When you do so consistently, it drives wedges in your relationships.

If I don't watch my victim mentality very carefully, it sneaks up on me. It leaks into my thinking or out of my mouth before I'm aware of it (as in "It never works out; it will never change.") When I hold myself in the truth that I'm in charge of how my life turns out, then I avoid sliding into the victim pit.

You have the power to shift your lazy listening into empowered listening. Come to one of my workshops and learn how!

Dr. Marta practices as a Life Coach in communication and consciousness. You can contact her by e-mail at or by phone at (928) 451-9482.