Hearing, meta-hearing & herring

I had to change a bank card number with PayPal today. I sent an email to the contact desk to express my concern that a link to verify my new card was not working. The reply I received was comforting. “I understand that you need help in confirming your new Visa card. I’m sorry if it caused any inconvenience. Don’t worry, I’m here to help you”.

I felt as if a really good friend was speaking to me, one who knew and valued me!

I am reminded again of the words of Maya Angelou. “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014)

I am not married to psychodynamic theory but more and more I understand that emotion and emotional processing of our experience is central to our psychological functioning; I am therefore I feel. You can move on to the so called rational, logical elements but if you fail to recognise and process faithfully the emotional (which is also possessed of its own rational & logical structure and processes) – you do so at your own peril; one can waste an entire life failing to deal with and unlock such emotion content. I find that beginning a conversation with the question; so what is life like for you, followed by and how does that feel – yields a remarkable harvest of emotional comprehension and hitherto distorted or unmanifested intentionality.

I often have to speak with the contact call centre of my ISP and cell phone company. I don’t really want to speak to these call centres but modern business strategy is to herd us into strictly controlled and defined corrals of context. Pretty much like pools on a trout farm. Some banks do not even let you have branch numbers at all! Don’t call us we won’t call you! Unless your cheque bounces…

I was in heated conversation with a call centre operator who was exceedingly well trained; she blocked my every appeal to get her to actually understand what I was asking….she just kept repeating the same useless, unhelpful mantra that might have worked on less dogged personalities than mine! After 10 calls I calmly instructed her to fetch her supervisor and free me from her stony clutches.

Why are some people managers and supervisors? Because they understand either due to training or natural ability the importance of meta-hearing.  When we communicate or listen to each other there are myriad and multiple levels of exchange occurring simultaneously. There is of course the manifest level of exchange. “This is happening and I need for this to happen”. Sorry sir that cannot happen…is there anything else I can do for you?”

Now I don’t expect that a call centre operator has the power to unlock the answer but I do expect the call centre operator to realise that they cannot unlock the answer and do what needs to be done to ensure that the path to unlocking the answer is found…whatever that may be. And of course if they can do that they are already well on the road to being more than a ham-fisted call centre operator…maybe they are meta-hearing like a supervisor or manager and maybe their own frustration will push them to their own advancement.

Anyway within the first minute the supervisor said to me; “Sir I understand that your service is not functioning and that you need to get back to work. That is what we must rectify”.

I interviewed a lot of people for jobs in my department when I was at the school. After perusing their CV’s I usually took the skills training for granted and moved on. It was part of the primary screening. Either they had been taught the skills or we could train them up or enhance their skills if they were lacking in some way.  I was far more interested in the person rather than simply their paper collection. I wanted to know what they heard when I spoke about the school and the job. I wanted to know what they saw when I described their roles and opportunities…this meta-hearing and meta-seeing was and remains key for me.

It is the capacity to hear and see beyond the apparent, the manifest, the obvious that defines the work of a therapist. Good therapists are like empty vessels, they are eager to learn, to be filled with feeling and understanding, they are comfortable not knowing, not understanding. I have spoken with “therapists” whose only agenda is for me to hear them and not the other way around.

In its most general sense it is about being open and being closed. It is more possible but not necessarily easier to work on anything relating to people if there is openness. Closedess simply means that one cannot start or one gets involved in things that seem to be a start but in fact are red-herrings…fighting with call centre operators is red-herring central – who doesn’t sometime s have energy or feeling they wish to displace onto unwitting participants!