“I’m a fast listener. I’m done before you finish speaking.” It would be funny if it weren’t so true. Haven’t we all been guilty of half-listening to someone as we frame that perfect reply?
It’s the times I’ve been on the receiving end that remind me how hurtful this can be.
Why Do People Talk?
I’m sure the reasons are as varied as the people who are talking. Sometimes, speaking is only a means of giving information to another person. Nothing more is expected than to hear the information and use it.
I think, however, that most of the time there is something more going on. I think the speaker is trying to connect with the person who is listening. I think there may be a lot below the surface that is being missed.
What Can I Do?
- Value the people around you. I am someone who enjoys marking items off my todo list. It’s easy to see interruptions by people as annoyances. I have come to the conclusion that I’ve got it backwards. People and relationships lead to a much richer life than a completed todo list. Everyone around me can enrich my life, and I need to be careful not to prejudge the message or its bearer.
- Clear your mind and focus on the person and message. It’s hard to truly listen when you are thinking about something else. Much of the message isn’t in the words, it’s in facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.
- Ask questions, if you need to, before you respond. How many times have we said something to a friend because we just wanted empathy and support, only to be told how to fix it all? How many times has that “fix” obviously not been the answer? I’ve learned to just shrug it off in good humor, but I have a friend who naturally assumes that if my ex-husband has filed a complaint with the court, I have done something wrong. No, he just didn’t like that I had the legal ability to do something and is angry. There’s a difference. How about jumping to the conclusion that I weighed my options and made the best decision I could?
Because we are human, we will never be free from mis-communicating. We will never have all the time we want to connect, accomplish, and enjoy all the people, tasks, and opportunities around us. We will have to choose. However, if you choose to listen, see what happens when you step it up a notch.