Normally I am a great advocate for listening to other people. You can learn a lot more, you can deepen relationships, you can discover new ideas – all by listening to other people. Of course, how much you achieve is always influenced by the kind of people you surround yourself with and by the quality of their utterances.
There are times, however, when the wisest thing you can do is to stop listening. I can’t speak for former times. I do not know, if there once was a time, when it wasn’t like it is now – that everyone else seems to know what’s best for you and they do not trust your own judgement of it. Probably this problem didn’t exist this much, because roles, especially between men and women, but also between parents and children, teachers and students, employers and employees, were much clearer cut than they are now. Thankfully, that changed – thankfully, just because someone has a higher social status or another gender, doesn’t mean he has a more important/ more valid opinion than you. Everyone has got the right to his own opinion, his own judgment, And that’s a great thing! The only aspect that highly disturbs me with that is this one: everyone doesn’t only have an own opinion – he/she often also thinks that it is more right/more valid/ more important than the opinion of other people – not because it actually, according to facts, is more right, but because it is his opinion. Whatever someones belief is, and I am sure that it is valid for that person, it is certainly not right to push that one own belief down the throat of everybody, without even so much as the pretense of being open-minded. Often times those people try to make others feel small, not because of the fact they support or the well-structured and logical argument they presented, but because they play with foul tricks like emotional blackmailing. It’s in the friend who demands “loyalty” from you in a cause that’s against your values It’s in the parent who demands that you study what would make him happy, because “he knows best”. It’s in the partner whose ego is too small to allow you opposite-gender friends. All of those people try to force their, unjustified, opinion on you, some because they intend to hurt you, others maybe do mean it well, but the outcome is the same – you, your values, your validity, is often lost along the way and that’s not supposed to happen. Be aware of these following, common, situations and remember that not-listening is sometimes the smarter way to go!
When to stop listening
- When the incompetence of another person is used as an excuse to make or keep you small – whenever you are told that you cannot do something, or cannot want something, because it would hurt another persons feelings, clearly analyze the situation. Would you really hurt your dad , if you work in a field he doesn’t like, or will he say that to keep you in line and under control? Can you really not do this presentation incredibly well, because it would make such a high contrast to your colleagues – incompetent and sloppy – work and you would hurt them thereby? Probably not. People who play on your feelings to prevent you from doing great work, have hurt themselves already long ago, by not living according to their own standards – you are just serving as a scapegoat for the dissatisfaction they can’t direct towards themselves. Your competence is never the reason for anothers’ incompetence.
- When you know that it is right – you have studied the facts, you have studied the risks, you have studied the right way to do something for yourself. Yet, a lot of people, who maybe mean it really well with you and are worried on your behalf, get in the way, telling you how dangerous it is, how much you can lose, what can go wrong. Should you maybe listen to them, as after all they only have your good in mind? Definitely not! Even if the reason is not the same as in the above example, those people too want to keep you small – and thereby safe. Safe is nice. But safe often doesn’t get you anywhere. If you have checked the risks, know what is in there for you and are passionate about it – go for it. Others will not, cannot even understand how you feel about this issue. In following your dreams your opinion is the only voice that matters.
- When you know that the other person isn’t true – it might be due to the best intention or it might be because they are little cowards – but some people will never face the responsibility of looking into your face and telling you the truth. I am sure that you know those people too. They will agree with whatever you say, they will compliment your every outfit, and fangirl over your all of your actions – but that can’t be true. No matter how great a person you are, you are a human being. Failing or being wrong is in our nature and the only way we can get on the right track again or make sure to not repeat certain mistakes is through honest feedback. If you tend to surround yourself with phonies of that kind, not-listening to their compliments is a sad but necessary act. They won’t tell you what you need to hear, but what they think you want to hear, and that’s a time waste that you shouldn’t afford.
There are for sure some more situation where you are better-off not listening. But being aware of the people who try to emotionally manipulate you, who would argue against any dream because it isn’t safe enough and the ones who aren’t able to tell you a hard truth, already puts you in an advantage-position. By all means, don’t stop listening to important people – but discover who is worth listening to, without being distracted by the inevitable dead-weight-utterances around you.