Listening to understand not to dispute.

One of the most prevalent forms of listening is done with the hopes to fortify our own preexisting opinion. One could say that it is, in fact, not listening at all. This lack of listening keeps us in the dark with the company of our own limited point-of-view.


If what someone is saying lines up with a belief we already have we consider them to be brilliant. If their opinions vary from ours we either checkout, consider the other to be foolish and/or try to convert their view all together. What is often over looked is that we don’t need to defend our point of view on something.

Lao Tzu is quoted saying, “Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.”  There is great wisdom in this saying. To have a deeper experience with this saying consider for a moment the following question: “Do you know what an orange tastes like?”.

When I ask this question to people in my practice it has always been met with the same response: “Yes, of course I know what an orange tastes like.”

The next task that is presented is much trickier. “Tell me what an orange tastes like”.  People do their best to describe the experience of tasting an orange.

-“It’s sweet and tangy.”5038357

-“It’s citrus-y and juicy.”

-“It’s tart and smooth.”

When asked how well they believe these descriptions cover they taste of an orange the answer is unanimous that the words fall short. When we know the flavor of something words do not describe it. When we know the smell of something no words will cover it. The same is true with anything we experience.

How do you explain an orgasm, falling in love, the loss of a loved one, or the feeling of betrayal? Words do not come close to illuminating what one experiences. While we can see it clearly in these examples, it gets much harder for us to come to terms that this is the same thing we do when we fight about being right in our relationships.

We forget that we do not have possession of the truth and misunderstand that our words will never encompass it. Just like the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon, so too our words are only pointers to what we are experiencing from our particular point of view.

When we begin to understand how limited our singular view on something is the need to be right becomes less important.  We being to understand that the words we use to point out our stance in an argument is just as limited as the words use to describe the taste of an orange.

We can then begin to take a deeper, more encompassing look at the situation. We begin to take in others view points as not opposing sides but another angle on the same situation.  No one who has tasted an orange would argue with any of the above descriptions, but they would also not be fooled by their personal attachment to the words they used to describe the fruit.

No words will ever encompass the truth, only point to it. Next time that you find yourself arguing with your partner, friend, family or whomever remember that taste of an orange and the words of Lao Tzu.

“Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.” -Lao Tzu