The catcher does not try to launch a 98 MPH fastball in response to the pitcher’s 95 MPH fastball. The catcher simply focuses on catching and framing the pitch before tossing the ball back; the catcher does not attempt to one-up the pitcher.
The active listener follows in the catcher’s footsteps, focusing on understanding the content rather than thinking about how they can one-up the speaker.
There’s an implicit system for a favorable outcome in a game of catch and in a conversation. The system hinges on a mutual understanding of the roles in the process.
The Game of Baseball
The pitcher assumes the role of delivery. He/she will throw the ball to the catcher, putting his/her own spin on the pitch. The catcher assumes the role of reception and confidant. He/she will devote their energy to interpreting where the ball is going and providing a signal for the next pitch.
A typical series of pitches will follow this pattern:
The catcher can’t be thinking about how they’re going to throw the ball back to the pitcher. The catcher must focus on understanding the pitch, otherwise, they’ll miss catching the ball. The pitcher has a good portion of control, but the catcher is the real linchpin of success.
A good listener reads the conversation the same way a good catcher reads the game.
The listener does not try to formulate a response while hearing what the speaker has to say. The listener simply focuses on understanding what is being said, so as not to miss the point. After the speaker delivers their thought, the listener decodes the message and offers up a statement encapsulating what was said. Then the listener provides a signal to guide the conversation further, which may come in the form of a question.
The communication process follows this pattern:
The speaker seems to be in control, but the listener is the real linchpin of a successful conversation.
We go through our lives switching between roles, and it would benefit us to acknowledge those roles, focusing on the strengths and responsibilities of our current role.
Are you going to ignore where the ball’s going and derail the game or are you going to focus on understanding and keep the game moving?