Can you hear me now?
Do you feel heard? I imagine that depends on who you're talking to.
You know how it feels. You wonder how you can be understood if you're not being listened to. Certainly, a one-sided conversation isn't fulfilling. It doesn't do much for your confidence if the person you're talking to isn't engaged. And this gives you little incentive to listen in return.
Listening truly is an art form. We're all in such a hurry to get to the next thing, that we'll rush even the most life-enriching things we do. Slowing down to listen is something I have to work on every day.
Sometimes we hurry things along by interrupting. We're excited by what the person is saying and we want to weigh in right away. I've thought of this as acceptable. But in reality, it's still assuming that you know how the other person's thoughts will finish. It's more interesting to assume that the person you're speaking with has something of value to say. Otherwise, you only hear your own thoughts. You've heard your thoughts before, right?
I've come up with my own reminder for when I'm tempted to interrupt. I'll lean my chin on my hand, strategically placing my forefinger across my mouth. This physical cue helps to bring me back to the present conversation. It reminds me of my goal of listening better.
Listening is a gift, and it's a memorable one.
I don't give a lot of physical gifts. To me, experiences are more valuable. So would my niece remember the game I bought her a couple years ago? Not likely. When she thinks of me, I hope that she'll remember instead that I am truly present in our conversations. That I value her enough to listen.
So here's a challenge for you. For the next 24 hours, make sure you're listening carefully to everyone who speaks to you. That means more than just listening. You need to stop thinking about what you're going to say next until they've gotten their statement out.
Don't worry that you already know what they want. Don't be concerned about showing that you're agreeing or disagreeing with them. More than anything, don't give a flip that you may or may not be smarter than they are. For one day, let the other person finish before you decide what to say next. Just one day.
And then maybe another.
Try it and use the comments here to let us know how it went. Or, if you've been on the receiving end of such a conversation, tell us what it feels like when you talk to a good listener.
Enjoy your listening. It's a gift for both of you!