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2024 / February

Elephant Talk

Talk, it’s only talk

The Retune Blog - 16th February 2024

Do words really matter? In King Crimson’s Elephant Talk we are confronted with reflection that sometimes people love to just talk and be heard even when they don’t really have anything to say:

Babble, burble, banter, bicker ... brouhaha, balderdash, ballyhoo. It's only talk.

Perhaps a neat commentary on a social media dominated world, especially for a song released in 1981 and pre-dating popular access to the internet, let alone social media. It shows that our obsession as humans with being heard absolutely pre-dates the amount of time people now spend on social media or trying to become ‘influencers’ and yet with little real value to contribute. It’s clearly part of our human fabric. Yet the song also reflects the value of speech:

Arguments, agreements, advice, answers, articulate announcements.

It’s only through talking that we can learn, be challenged, and grow. But perhaps the emphasis here is all in the wrong place. Talking is a given, but what about listening? The song concludes:

Too much talk.

Perhaps this is right, but perhaps more accurately we need to think more about listening, as this is also something in our control. We can control what we say, but not what others say. However, we can always control what we listen to.

It leads me to thinking about what I choose to listen to, and whether it helpfully pushes, challenges, comforts and moulds me, or whether it just prods me in a direction that I don’t want to go or which might be unhealthy for me. Yet this leads me to a more profound question; what really is listening?

Just hearing something isn’t really listening. Listening only comes when I begin to engage with the sound; first through hearing, but then through processing and working it out in application. This is where listening becomes transformative. What we hear can change our lives if we personalise it and work with it. Depending on what we listen to, and then what we do with it, will depend on whether that change will be positive or negative.

So, I think King Crimson has a really good point about being barraged with too much talk. But the real challenge all of us can take on, is what we choose to listen to, and then what we do with it.

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Founder and Director of Metanoeo CIC and Metanoeo Coaching. Working with individuals, communities and business to co-create #wellbeing4all through life coaching, resources for living life well and training and supporting life coaches.

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