I’m ready to listen, really listen, but I want to look you in the eye, smile, nod, and see you—nothing else can substitute face-to-face interaction to build understanding.
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Call me old-fashioned, but I want to see your face and hear your voice. We marveled at letters arriving in days rather than months, and hearing a voice thousands of miles away fascinated and thrilled us. The notion of seeing you through a phone seemed unlikely.
Yet, here we are in 2021 with FaceTime, Zoom, text messaging, and various apps to bridge the divide between us. What troubles me is how we have defaulted to the current technology with people in the same town, living on the same street, or sitting in the next room.
Somewhere along the way, we missed learning the skills of active listening. Our current tech-savvy tools have further exacerbated our lack of ability or willingness to engage in thoughtful listening. I am also guilty of thinking of my next sentence rather than listening fully to your story. My brain moves fast and forgets to warn my lips to remain silent and listen without distractions.
I don’t mean to do it. But I interrupt you and steamroll over your thoughts so I can share my own. I always regret those moments. You may smile patiently or remind me of my impudence. Either way, once the words fly out of my mouth, there is no way to bring them back.
The Art of Listening
I don’t know of any classes on the art of listening. Some people seem to possess an innate ability to corral their thoughts and give priority to the ideas and words of others. You know when you meet one of these gifted beings. They graciously allow you to ramble on and on until suddenly you realize that you’re the only one talking.
We easily recognize the most common habits of poor listening, such as fidgeting, looking at our hones, tapping mindlessly, or interrupting. Many of us, myself included, must still work at the mindset of a good listener. In You’re Not Listening, Kate Murphy found that listening plugs you into life and “helps you understand yourself as much as those speaking to you.”
Good relationships have one characteristic in common — listening. You can’t always shut down what’s going on in your mind. But some of us have mastered the art of quieting those voices long enough to show how much we care about others.
“To listen well is to figure out what’s on someone’s mind and demonstrate that you care enough to want t know. It’s what we all crave; to be understood as a person with thoughts, emotions, and intentions that are unique and deserving of attention.” —Kate Murphy
Hearing vs. Listening
How often does someone say, “I hear you.” But did they listen? I can hear your words and fail to take the time to internalize your message.
Hearing doesn’t imply action since I remain passive. Listening requires effort on my part. I must focus attention, interpret your words and body language. Sometimes I may need to listen for what is not said.
My one-liner update serves as a reminder to self to do more than hear. I want to live in the richness of your stories and find the meaning and creativity you possess.
So, note to self: Update your efforts to build a habit of artful and heartful listening.
My thanks to Linda G Hill for the inspiration for this Wednesday’s One-Liner.