Can You Hear Me Now?

Telephone technology of the 21st century is truly amazing, practically magical, especially compared to the telecommunications I experienced growing up in the 1960’s. My father was employed by Pacific Bell Telephone (Ma Bell) as a switch office technician for all of his 30+ year career. And every once in a while he would treat me to a tour of his ‘office’. I was clearly an impressionable youth, because I would walk amazed and mind-boggled through the rows and columns of switch gear. The incessant cacophony of clicks and clacks, snaps and pops, was a symphony of sorts. And it perplexed me to no end to envision each noisy tapping of the switch gear as the result of one of Ma Bell’s customers ringing up and connecting with another person’s telephone. And these telephones where making their connections whether they existed in the same city or were ringing across the country! How was this possible? The mystery of hardwired telephone technology and its clumsy mechanical systems was something like voo-doo science. And yet, by the 1980’s my father retired early from the telephone company. He wanted nothing to do with learning a new technology…the switchover from the hard-wired analog system to smooth efficiently of the digital age. But wait, by the 1990’s, cell phone technology would go to outer space and beyond to make our chit-chat connections possible! This is why it always makes me chuckle whenever I hear that idiomatic saying, “Can you hear me now?” I mean really, call switch-science today is silent and wireless, so why do we still struggle to hear one another on our pocket phones? This seems ridiculously backwards!

“When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.”

Brenda Ueland

But like many things in our modern world, the more things change, the more things stay the same. And what is still true through all the ages, is the human need to be heard. “Can you hear me now?” It doesn’t matter whether we are relating over the telephone lines or through the ether of the Internet, or through words and deeds in the milieu of human relations. To be heard by the other, is to be seen, to be acknowledged, to be made real and necessary. To be heard implies that the words we speak are being received and deciphered accurately by the one on the receiving end. It is no surprise then, that our relations with one another break down so often due to a ‘lack of connection’.

“Listening is an art that requires attention over talent, spirit over ego, others over self.”

Dean Jackson

In my work as a personal trainer, I initially train and teach my clients from a place of not knowing. What I thereafter learn about my client I do so by curating purposeful questions and quiet listening. My knowledge, training, and practice in the art of physical fitness, does my client no good if I clone a one-size fits all program. The beautiful challenge I encounter with every client who comes to me for training is similar to that of telecommunications technology. When I make a training appointment with a client, I must be able to connect with them by listening and interpreting what they are telling me about their goals and/or outcomes. It is possible for me to create static in our communication if I over-ride their needs and desires with my own goals for them or I may get our lines crossed and misinterpret what they transmit to me. When I don’t ask the right questions, I lose an opportunity to tailor the best program for their specific objectives. Listening to my client’s words and watching their body-language helps me develop a plan to meet their evolving intentions. “Can you hear me now?” It takes two, willing, hearing and listening participants to make one healthy training relationship.

“The first duty of love is to listen.”

Paul Tillich

Curious isn’t it? That regardless of the basis for our relationship with others, the most respectful, helpful, thing we can do to elicit one another’s growth and understanding is first and foremost to engage this simple task: listen well to the words spoken by the other. This is a simple thing to do with our two ears, but it is not easy. I am learning that my best listening networks happen when I make sure not to lose the connection between my ears and my heart.