A lot clutters our brains: to-do lists, work deadlines, kids' activities. Even when we're talking we are thinking of a million other things. You've probably seen it in your own conversations. The blank stare when you're talking to someone. Or the response that doesn't have to do with what you're talking about. Or the antsy looking at the door. You may have done them all yourself.
In the A to Z challenge I've been all over the world and learned some interesting things. I've done it all from the comfort of my big comfy couch. With the advent of social media we are able to communicate on a global scale and we can do it instantly. This is not a bad thing. The downside though is that sometimes we type when we should be talking. Because it's impersonal we skim emails or blog posts and don't consider what's behind the words. We don't have to truly listen.
Listening: to make an effort to hear something, to pay attention to or take notice of what someone says.
You have to make a choice to listen. You hear what someone says and then respond. It's not always easy. But it's important. It's part of what makes us human. We need face time, not just Facebook or Twitter time. Seeing the person is as important as hearing since how it's said sometimes is more telling than the words. Listening is not just active, but interactive. We hear and respond. The other person responds. We communicate.
In work listening is crucial. It's how you know instructions and deadlines. If you don't hear you don't know what to do. In medicine a patient's history is more important than any lab test. If we don't listen we can miss a key piece of information needed for care. You have to slow down long enough to pay attention.
Listening is not easy, especially when we are not in the habit of doing it. So, how can we sharpen our skills?
- Listen to conversations. See how others communicate.
- Make a decision to listen.
- Ignore texts and calls--silence your phone if you have to.
- Maintain eye contact.
- Repeat something of what the person says back to them.
- Try to keep emotions in check.
- Ignore distractions.
- Put aside personal prejudices or preconceived ideas.
- Practice, Practice, Practice
What are things you can do this weekend to sharpen your listening skill? Who needs you to listen to them? Who do you need to listen to you?