Jordan Peterson - How to Really LISTEN to Someone

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We're having a conversation.

I'm deciding I'm going to listen to you.

Right? That's different, than how people generally communicate,

because usually when they communicate, they're doing something like:

"Okay, we're gonna have a conversation -

- and I'm gonna tell you why I'm right, and I'll win, if you agree."

Or maybe you're having a conversation, where...

I don't know what you're trying to do, maybe you're trying to impress the person you're talking to.

So you're not listening to them at all, you're just thinking about what you're gonna say next.

Okay, so that's not THIS. This is:

"You might have something to tell me. And so, I'm gonna listen on the off chance,

that you'll tell me something, that would really be useful for me to know."

And so, you can think about it as an- as an extension of the Piagetian....

You know, Piaget talked about the fundamental...

the fundamentally important element of knowledge, being: to describe, how knowledge is sought.

The process, by which knowledge is generated.

Well... if you agree with me, and I find that out - I know nothing more than I knew before,

I just know, what I knew before.

And maybe I'm happy about that, because you know, it didn't get challenged.

But I'm no smarter than I was before.

But maybe you're different than me, and so,

while I'm listening to you, you'll tell me something I wouldn't- [something] I don't like.

Maybe it's something I find contemptible, or difficult, whatever.

Maybe you'll find, [that] you'll tell me something I don't know, and then I won't be quite as stupid.

And then, maybe I won't run painfully into quite as many things.

And that's a really useful thing to know, especially if you live with someone,

and you're trying to... make long-term peace with them, as they're not the same as you.

And the way they look at the world, and the facts that they pull out of the world, aren't the same as your facts.

And, even though you're going to be overwhelmed with the proclivity to demonstrate that you're right,

it is the case, that two brains are better than one.

And so, maybe 9 of the 10 things they tell you are dispensable,

or maybe even 49 out of 50, but ONE thing,

all you need to get out of the damn conversation, is one thing you don't know.

And one of the things, that's very cool about a good psychotherapeutic session is, that the whole conversation is like that.

All you're doing, is trying to... express the truth of the situation

as clearly, as possible - that's it!

And so, now... Rogers' proposition (and I'll you, why he derived it),

was that if you have a conversation like that with someone, it will make both of you better.

It'll make both of you psychologically healthier.

So there's an implicit presupposition, that the exchange of truth is curative.

Well, that's a very cool idea! I mean, it's a very deep idea,

uh, I think it's the most profound idea...

[stutter] It's the- it's the idea, upon western civil-

upon which western civilization (although not only western civilization), is actually predicated.

The idea, that truth produces health.

But for Rogers, that was the entire purpose of the psychotherapeutical alliance.

[i.e.:] You come to see me, because you want to be better.

You don't even know what that means, necessarily, neither do I - we're gonna figure that out together.

But you come and you say: "Look, things are not acceptable to me,

and maybe, there's something I could do about that."

So, that's the minimal precondition to engage in therapy:

Something's wrong, you're willing to talk about it truthfully, and you want it to be better.

Without that, the therapeutic relationship does not get off the ground.

And so, then you might ask: "Well, what relationships are therapeutic?"

And the answer to that, would be: If you have a real relationship, it's therapeutic.

If it isn't, what you have is not a relationship. God only knows, what you have.

You're a slave, they're a tyrant, you know.

You're both butting heads with one another, it's a primate dominance hierarchy dispute.

Or, I don't know, you're like two cats in a barrel, or two people with their hands around each other's throats.

But what you have, is not a relationship.

So... alright.

[reads from the slide] - We may say, that the greater the communicated concrugance of experience, awareness and behavior on the part of one individual,

That's- that's a reference to the same idea, that I was describing with regards to Jung.

So, let's say...

You come and talk to me, and you want things to go well.

Well, I'm gonna have to more-or-less be one thing,

because if I'm all over the place, you can't trust any continuity in what I say.


There's no reason for you to believe, that I'm capable of actually telling you...

I'm capable of expressing anything, that's true.

So the Truth is something, that emerges as a consequence of getting yourself lined up,

and beating all the...

what would you call.

All the impurities, out of your... (x3) soul, for lack of a better word.

You have to be integrated for that to happen.

And you do that, at least in part, by wanting to tell the truth.

[reads the slide again] - The more the ensuing relationship will involve a tendency toward reciprocal communication with the same qualities.

So, one of the things that've been quite influenced by Rogers,

[and] one of the things I try to do in my therapeutic sessions,

is, first of all - to listen, to really listen.

And then - while I listen, I watch, and while I'm listening, thing will happen in my head.

You know, maybe I'll get a little image of something, or I'll get a thought, or a question will emerge;

and then I'll just tell that person, what that is.

But it's sort of directionless, you know, it's not like I have a goal - except that we're trying to make things better.

I'm on the side of the person...

I'm on the side of the part of the person, that wants things to be better, not worse.

And so, those parts of us have a dialogue, and the consecuence of that dialogue, is that certain things take place!

And then I'll just tell the person what happened.

And it isn't that I'm right.

That's not the point! The point is, that they get to have an hour with someone, that actually tells them, what they think.

"Here's the impact you're having on me".

You know? "This is making me angry. This is making me happy. This is really interesting".

"This reminds me of something that you said an hour ago, that I don't quite understand."

And the whole... the whole point is not, for either person,

to make the proposition or convince the other, that their position is correct,

but merely to have an exchange of experience, about how things are set up.

And it's extraordinarily useful for people, because it's often difficult

for anyone, to find anyone to talk to, that will actually listen!


And so, another thing that's really strange about this listening, is that

if you listen to people, they will tell you the weirdest bloody things!

So fast, you just cannot believe it!

So, if you're having a conversation with someone, and it's dull -

- it's because you're stupid! That's why.

You're not listening to them properly, because they're weird, they're like...

wombats, or albatrosses, or rhinoceroses or something, like, they're strange creatures.

And so, if you were actually communicating with them, and they were telling you, how weird they really are,

it would be- it would be anything, but boring.

So... and you can ask questions, that's a really good way of listening.

But, you know, one of Rogers' points is: Well, you have to be oriented properly, in order to listen.

And the orientation has to be: "Look, what I want out of this conversation,

is that the place we both end up, is better than the place we left.

That's it! That's what I'm after."

And if you're not after that, you gotta think: Why the hell wouldn't you be after that?

What could you possibly be after, that would be better than that?

You walk away, smarter and more well-equipped for the world,

than you were, before you had the conversation - and so does the other person.

Well, maybe if you're bitter and resentful, and angry, and anxious, and you know - generally annoyed at the world,

then, that isn't what you want.

You want the other person to walk away worse, and you too, cause you're full of revenge!

But, you know...

You'll get what you want, if you do that.


[reads the next slide] ● We know from our research that such emphatic understanding -

So, I've already defined that: a) I wanna hear you,

b) I wanna hear what you have to say, so we can clarify it and move forward,

c) I wanna have your best interest in mind,

d) and mine as well! But, you know, both at the same time.

e) your family's too, if we can manage that.

We're after making things better.

● We know from our research that such emphatic understanding -

- understanding with the person, not about him - is such an effective approach, that it can bring about major changes in personality.

● Some of you may be feeling, that you listen well to people, and that you have never seen such results.

The chances are very great, that you have not been listening, in the manner that I've described.

● Fortunately, I can suggest a little experiment that you can do, to test the quality of your understanding.

● The next time you get into an argument with your wife, or your friend, or small group of friends,

stop the discussion for a moment, and for an experiment, institute this rule.

● "Each person can speak up for himself only after he has first restated the ideas and

feelings of the previous speaker accurately."

What "accurately" means, is - they have to agree with your restatement.

Now, that's an annoying thing to do.

Because if someone is talking to you, and you disagree with them,

the first thing you wanna do, is take their argument and make the stupidest possible thing out of it, that you can,

(that's the "Strawman"), and then demolish it!

It's like... So then you can walk away feeling good about it, that you know, [stutters] you primate domins-

Dominated them really nicely, so...

But that isn't what you do! You say: "Okay well, I'm gonna take what you told me,

and maybe I'm even gonna make your argument stronger, than the one you made."

That's useful, if you're dealing with someone that you have to live with.

Because maybe they can't bloody well express themself very well, but they have something to say!

So, you make their argument strong.

Alright, then - you see what this would mean:

● It would mean, that before presenting your own point of view, it would be necessary

for you to really achieve the other speaker's frame of reference - to understand his

thoughts and feelings so well, that you could summarize them for him.

● Sound simple, doesn't it? But if you will try it, you'll find that it's the most difficult thing, that you've ever done.

Ok, good. We'll leave it at that, and then we'll see you on Tuesday.