A friend of mine told me that I wasn’t listening to her.
Honestly, that took me by surprise, since I actually think I am one of the better listeners out there. One of us is probably correct, or perhaps the truth lies in between.
However, this is something that I have been giving a lot of thought to anyways lately, so I thought I would take a few minutes to talk about the subject.
The first thing I noticed is that I tend to talk more than I listen. When there is silence, I jump right in to fill it.
The thought going by my head as I jump in is something to the fact of “The person sitting across the table, thinks I have nothing intelligent to say, and I don’t want them to think I am a dunce, so I better chime in.” Of course, this self-talk often interferes with my real brain processing, resulting in rubbish spewing from my mouth just to fill up the white noise.
Interestingly, when meeting new people, conversation is really about creating relationships. This means that the experience, is filled with anxiety surrounding performance and being judged.
So the first step to listening, is really to stop focusing on your part of the conversation – especially the fear that the other party in the conversation is judging you. Since while they certainly may be, if you have thoughtful answers that will carry things fine – even if it takes some time to compose your thoughts. More specifically, I find that I need to simply stop worry about being judged by the other party. After all, who really should care what they are thinking if it is negative, besides them! If they can’t appreciate you for who you are and what you have to offer, why waste your time creating a strong relationship through conversation!
Rather, take the time to focus the idea that the conversation is an opportunity to learn about how the other person sees the world, and see if you are interested in what they have to say. Use your part of the discussion to focus the conversation where you are interested in going, and learning more, as well as opening up your emotional kimona.
What we are really shifting is the perspective of living for others vs. living for ourselves. When we are afraid in conversation, it demonstrates that we are living for others. When we are just enjoying conversation, we are living for ourselves and bringing on others for the ride. For many of us, myself included, this is difficult to achieve, but I think it is the goal.
Once we have set our mind at ease, the next step is to move our mental focus to the other party by taking out other distractions. Being in the moment, and creating focus, allows us to fully hear what the other person is saying and bring it in to our unconscious mind and make it part of us. True emotional intimacy.
The final step, though, is to actually put ourselves in the other person shoes. See the world through their eyes, instead of our own. Understanding what they are really saying, and meaning. It is this step that creates the strong listener.
So next time I sit down with a friend, I will apply these steps and learn to really listen.