Now that we have given some thought to the subjects above, let’s do some thinking about thinking, and about how our thinking affects our whole lives. We surely want to be able to grow in our thinking, we surely want to explore new concepts and ideas, we surely want to embrace new experiences. Or do we? Do we think that what we already know is all that there is to know? Do we think that we have everything all worked out?
We need to use all the life skills that we have if we are to grow in experience, and therefore in understanding. Understanding rarely leads to genuine experience, but experience always leads to genuine understanding. Both of one kind or another. Let’s consider some life skills and see how we can use them to help us to grow and mature. Let’s consider how, in whatever circumstances that we find ourselves, we can go beyond requirements, rise above the normal, and surprise ourselves as well as others.
Wherever you go, either on your own or with someone else, watch other people. Observe behaviour and mannerisms and ask yourself questions about what you see. Pick up also on delays in people replying, the way things are said that might be unusual, the pose in which a person is, the unexpected answer to a question, and so on. Watch people who are on the edge of the main action or discussion, and observe and gain wisdom as you watch and listen. You will potentially learn a great deal by watching people who are not part of the main conversation or action. You will see those people who are either excluded, or who have excluded themselves.
Film-makers are well aware of the importance of keen observation and careful listening. When you have seen a really good film for the first time, watch it for a second time but do not focus on the main characters or main action as you did before. The main characters and main action will usually be in the centre of the screen. Focus instead on what is happening in the background and sideground – around the edges of the main characters and main action. See the tiny incident you missed first time round. Listen to the throwaway line that you didn’t hear first time. See the title of the book on the table that you didn’t catch first time. See what is on the computer screen that you overlooked the first time round. See what the person on the very edge of the action is doing. And so on. In this way, you can train yourself to be observant and practise that skill. Such a skill is very useful in helping yourself to grow and develop. You will soon find yourself watching and listening to people who are in the background.
As I said already with regard to films, be aware of small details! Little incidents and throwaway words and gestures can be very important in helping you to discern people, to know people, and to understand people. When you are with people but you are in the background, you will sometimes go mostly unnoticed by the main characters around you. Watch the people in the background or sideground who are not main characters. Watch out for the small, but important, details that are easily missed.
You can learn a great deal about people by observing them in their various settings, moods, environments, and so on. This is especially true when people are relaxing or playing. You can learn a lot about people and from people when they are relaxed and enjoying themselves. People who are relaxed and enjoying recreation may often say and do things that they would not normally say and do in the course of daily life.
It is very hard to listen when you are talking. I am often reminded that we have two ears but only one mouth. Yet listening to someone is about so much more than merely hearing the words that they speak. Listening needs to be closely allied to watching. Our ears can miss clues that our eyes would pick up. The opposite is also true, of course.
Listen to hearts more than you listen to heads. People do not speak from neutrality. They are affected by many things that influence their words at any given moment. Listening to people’s hearts shows that you care about the person that you are currently with. Listening is at its most useful when you do not interrupt the person by talking yourself. Take time to discern what you are hearing.