Unboxed Life

Boldly existing outside the box through conscious living and constant learning.

Oh Bother!: What Winnie The Pooh Can Teach Us About Listening… And Learning Too

“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” -Winnie The Pooh

“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.” Winnie The Pooh

editors note: This post was inspired by the words of one of my favorite blogs here. Please check it out.

Hearing and listening are two entirely different actions. To hear is to simply perceive sound with the ear while listening is a conscious choice. Truly listening to another person requires concentration and single-mindedness in order to deduce meaning from words. Though hearing is something we do unconsciously as long as we are not hearing-impaired, listening with our hearts and minds inevitably leads us to learning, which in turn leads us invariably to Unboxed Living.

It seems to me that if we agree that listening to other people can and will result in the learning of new things and the expanding of our minds, the fact that listening is a lost art is a tragedy of epic proportions. We live in a world where we are bombarded with millions of sensory stimuli every second of every day. Our brains can only process a fraction of what noise is out there and it takes extreme focus to block out the distractions and focus in on a single string of thought.

To even further compound this fact of nature is the rate by which we subject ourselves to the ever-beckoning glow of screens, buttons, images, status-updates, and tweets of the social media juggernaut. If I wish to engage in conversation with you my words must compete with ever-evolving forms of media that have lead us to internalize and standardize multi-tasking as a form of communication. Texting, Facebook, Twitter, and instant messaging has replaced verbal, face to face communication and have altered our ability to connect with other people forever. What was once an intimate, valued, and integral part of the human existence has been reduced to incomplete sentences and emoticons.

So it seems we as a population have become accustomed to hearing but not listening to each other. What does this mean for us on our journey to expand our mind and Unbox our lives? What is lost when true, heartfelt listening is non-existent in our daily interactions? First, and most alarming to me, is that our opportunity for daily learning is narrowed even further and is often swept aside as we sling pudgy birds at even pudgier pigs. We skim through our interactions with our fellow humans like speed readers trying to digest the just of a work of art. The nuance of non-verbal communication, the complex nature of human psychology, and the opportunity for profound personal connection are destroyed in the Cliff Notes version of conversation.

Even as we narrow our scope of potential learning, we immediately discount the transformational influence a deep, honest, personal connection through conversation can have on ourselves and on others. From my own experience working in Africa I would go as far as to argue that the power of looking someone in the eye and connecting heart to heart has a greater impact than any building project or aid program I have ever seen. Human beings thrive when they are listened to, respected, and connected with other people in ways that nothing else can achieve.

The negative impact on our own personal journey of life is immense when we starve for human interaction. Without the sharing of ideas, opinions, thoughts and feelings through words and connection we will remain locked into our biased and limited mindset never breaking free from the boxes we live in. The ideals, values, and beliefs we hold so dear can never be strengthened without sharing them with others. When we ignore the profound influence of the simple act of truly listening we are downplaying its affect on our own ability to live Unboxed.

What can we do in our current technology-gorged society to try and regain some of the lost art of listening? The good news is there is hope for all of us. Just as we can train our minds to think in different ways, we can practice the act of true listening in order to find its power once again.

When connecting with people remove physical and mental distractions

It’s pretty simple. When you are conversing with someone don’t text, update your Facebook status, tweet, play games, check email, or do anything else except listen and talk with the person in front of you. This is especially hard in phone conversation but is even more important to do. Focus your mind on each word, the sound and cadence of the person’s voice, the subtle tones and unconscious movements that all make up profound interaction.

Realize the value of connections to yourself and the other person and place that value above your own ego

We all think we are pretty important and that what we have to say, check, or update is paramount to the continuation of the human race. It’s not. Whatever you think you have to do at that moment chances are it isn’t more important than validating what the person you are connecting with is saying and taking every opportunity to learn from their words.

Set aside specific time to nurture interpersonal connections

As stated earlier, face to face associations are often replaced by short, impersonal interactions and if we are not careful this can become the entirety of our exchanges. Even though is seems unnecessary, setting aside time to remove every other distraction from the equation and find a connection with another person can rejuvenate your spirit and create bonds that no amount of instant messaging will ever do.

When it comes down to it we can only take our Unboxed Journey so far independent from the rest of humanity. We really do rely on others to carry us beyond our own limited capacity for learning and growth. The understood limits of our human potential can be shattered when we tap into the power of true, uninterrupted, unencumbered heart, mind, and soul connection through real listening and communicating. With this tool we can expand our minds beyond their limits and find the true expression of the human condition present in our connections with others.

I firmly believe that without gathering as many views and opinions on any one thought, belief, or long-held value we can never really say it is who we are. When we choose to share our thoughts and feelings with others we are ensuring that what we hold true is really who we are and what we truly believe. Listening is our greatest tool in this pursuit and will be a skill and ally as we Unbox our lives even further.

All photos: taken by Tanner Colton all rights reserved


13 comments on “Oh Bother!: What Winnie The Pooh Can Teach Us About Listening… And Learning Too

  1. kolena
    August 8, 2012

    Thank you for this post. I agree Its hard not to get life get to you or how busy you are and not give your full attention to things. I want to work on listening, being in silence and really tunning in when someone is talking to me. To step away from the busy life at and take moments to myself.

    • Tanner Colton
      August 8, 2012

      You make a great point, that taking time to conversate with ourselves is also important. Being in silence and taking moments to check in to our own mind is equally as valuable as connecting with others. Great insights Kolena, thanks for the comment!

  2. Elizabeth
    August 8, 2012

    This is incredibly timely – Thank you!! I’ve been finding myself having great difficulty paying attention and listening during a conversation. I find that if all distractions are gone it’s easier, however, I still find myself mulling over a million things in my mind while trying to listen to the other person. I agree that taking time to yourself and listening to yourself can help quiet those thoughts while interacting with other people. My goal is to turn everything off except my heart and listen well.

    • Tanner Colton
      August 8, 2012

      Thanks Elizabeth, I am glad you found this material pertinent in your life. I think we all struggle in some degree with really focusing on any one particular thing. There are entire religious and spiritual practices dedicated to finding our center and the oneness that makes us transcend those loud noises in our world. I think the main goal is that we continually work towards heightened focusing abilities and formulating increasingly meaningful connections through conversation. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Jennifer Stuart
    August 8, 2012

    I like how you touch on the importance of community here. So many of our senses of community are now coming from Internet-related sources, it seems. They are both easier to create, and easier to indulge in, in a lazy and not-fully-engaged way. I feel like I read somewhere that in places with community living, there is far less schizophrenia and various other mental situations that folks in America tend to have. Not sure where I read it though 🙂

    • Tanner Colton
      August 8, 2012

      Very interesting points Jennifer and thanks again for inspiring this blog post! Though I have not heard that statistic before, knowing what I do I would not doubt it for a second. There is so much power in really connecting with someone on a personal level that is different from a virtual connection. This is one of the things that makes blogging and other online ventures so difficult and unique. I do believe we can still make meaningful connections online, it just takes more effort and diligence to formulate the same transformational connections we can make in person. Thanks for your comment and for you work in general.

  4. Mary
    August 8, 2012

    This post got me to thinking of how hearing-impaired people communicate. Often the meaning of a word or phrase is completely changed based on the raise of an eyebrow, shrug of shoulders, or moving your body from side to side. Really paying attention to those nuances requires face-to-face concentration. Beautiful things can be said in sign language by changing your body position or facial expression, or if you aren’t careful, some not too beautiful things come out accidentally! Great post. Those of us in the older generation sometimes don’t understand how communication has changed so much in the last decade.

    • Tanner Colton
      August 9, 2012

      That is such an interesting thing to think about. It just highlights the importance of all the non-verbal nuances of speaking with other people that we lose when we lack personal connection. The fact does remain that communication has changed, but that does not mean it is always for the better. For all we have gained in access and information we have lost just as much in meaning and heart to heart connection. Thanks for the comment!

  5. The Professor
    August 11, 2012

    This is great advice, Tanner. I’ve never considered the environmental factors in communication, but it’s very true: the better the surroundings in which you communicate, the better the communication. Thank you!

    Mark Blasini

  6. Angel B
    August 14, 2012

    Great post Tanner! Lots of insight! I too am a hypocrite guilty of multitasking while on the phone or talking to someone and the first person to be annoyed when someone is doing it to me.

    • Tanner Colton
      August 14, 2012

      Thanks AngelB, I think we are all guilty of it at one time or another. The key is to learn from those mistakes and to realize the value not only to others, but to yourself of placing emphasis on personal connections. I am still learning and have lots of work to do, but I am getting there! Thanks again.

      • Angel B
        August 14, 2012

        You and my brother The Professor both write in a way that I feel you are talking to me in my brother’s case he sometimes is but you have a very talented ability to be insightful, deep, realistic, and helpful through your own self discovery! Thanks again for taking the time to share your discoveries!

      • Tanner Colton
        August 14, 2012

        That’s what its all about right? Expanding the mind and learning through experiences and the sharing of ideas with other forward-thinking people like yourself. Thanks for the compliment.

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