Listen to learn, Not to reply

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen with the intent to reply." - Stephen R. Covey.

Recovery requires learning new habits and unlearning old habits. Listening at recovery meetings is critical to this learning and unlearning. There is a tendency to want to look smart by making a smart comment at recovery meetings. Our egos tell us that we need to impress others. But if we are thinking about our comment and ignoring others' comments, we may be failing to learn. If we are thinking about how to impose our personal opinions while someone else is talking, we are defeating the purpose of the meeting.  Especially if one is new to recovery, one should listen and really only talk if it is to share his or her own personal problem or to ask questions. If one has been to many meetings, one should still listen because the learning never ends.

Knowing that you don't have to impress anyone or calculate a reply is relaxing. Knowing that you don't need to manipulate or persuade anyone is relaxing. Uncalculated comments that come from the heart and not the head seem to be the most meaningful. These uncalculated comments are borne from listening to understand, not to advance our own theory. Finally, if we truly listen to understand, we can be truly open to needed change and more empathetic to the person sharing.

Listening to understand and not to reply can also help you outside of recovery meetings. Too often we fail to let someone else finish. Too often we want to win the argument without being open to what the person is saying. Others can sense this and it alienates them and gives them the impression you are closed minded. Ultimately, this causes resentment and tension in a relationship rather than harmony. Indeed, a fundamental impediment to relationships occurs when a partner feels like he or she can't be heard.

Being clean and sober is a prerequisite to being able to listen to understand. So many spouses of addicts know that when an addict is practicing his or her addiction, there is no sense at all in trying to explain anything. This is another reason not to pick up the first drug! We don't want to go back to being someone who cannot listen.


Today, I will listen to understand, not to reply.