Stop Listening!

Not too long ago I read a post by executive coach and Enneagram expert, Wendy Appel, called “The Bamboo Leader.” In it, she likened the qualities of bamboo to desirable qualities within people. Principal among them were the qualities of being flexible, resilient and versatile. She advised that to be a Bamboo Leader, we must seek to understand others through listening to their words and being open to their point of view. She also noted that listening to the words of others is not the same as adopting their point of view.

two silhouettes in bamboo

Strong, flexible and resilient bamboo is equally suited for creating boundaries and protecting itself from what it does not need. Bamboo Forest location: The Grounds for Sculpture, Trenton, NJ

Reading her post made me think about the times we need to reject others points of view and in that way, not listen to them. Sometimes, we need to stop listening so that we can remain true to ourselves and so that we can protect ourselves from hurt and harm.

In my garden are two yellow clump bamboo in pots sunk into the ground. They grow at the edge in my garden, next to my neighbor’s yard. When the plants are dry, the leaves curl to capture the most rain possible and funnel every precious drop down to the roots. In that way, when we drink in information and take it to heart, we are like the bamboo.

Yet when the rain continues and the bamboo is satiated, the culms (also called canes)  bend to one side to allow the rest of the rainfall to be redirected away from the roots. It gracefully declines the water that is offered, much like we sometimes hear what others are saying but must reject their ideas.

It is particularly necessary to reject the ideas of others when what they are saying is hurtful and therefore harmful to us. We need to recognize that not everything that we hear is the truth, sometimes it’s not even a half-truth. It might be opinion, it might be irrelevant. It might be nonsense.

This ability to discern when it is time to stop listening is especially valuable when we are grieving or suffering pain in a relationship.

It is appropriate, it is necessary, to stop listening when we hear someone:

  • Minimize our loss, as though that correlates to less grief.
    At least you had many years together.
  • Give us advice that is intended to decrease their discomfort over the emotions we express.
    You must be strong.
  • Attempt to relate, as though we all experience loss the same way.
    I know how you feel.
  • Offer us platitudes instead of their presence.
    It is God’s will.

Bamboo is unrelenting in its quest for what it needs. Last winter, our bamboo broke through the pots in a quest for moisture and made a beeline for our neighbor’s yard. When bamboo has gone where it does not belong, the only way to stop it is to cut the root away from the plant.

Likewise, when others press their hurtful ideas upon us, when they go where they do not belong, we need to cut the line of communication. We need to stop listening:

  • We can begin by bending away and letting our inner voice rail against their unhelpful and hurtful words.
  • We can remind ourselves their words are only their opinion, not fact, and as such we need give them no more thought.
  • We can dismiss them from us by saying, “Thank you for your presence. I appreciate your intentions.”

Wendy Appel also points out that bamboo is used to establish boundaries. We can be like the bamboo in that way also and keep our own boundaries intact by discerning the difference between wise words we need to hear and hurtful words we need to deflect.

Life Is Honest, Open and True: Sometimes we feel obligated to listen to others, even when what they are saying is hurtful. Not only do we drink it in, we hold it, when what we should do is bend the hurtful words away from us and protect our boundaries.

Related Post: Listening

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