I’ve written for as long as I can remember. Journals, stories, blogs, unnecessarily verbose emails; whatever medium was available, I’ve taken advantage.
While writing for me was never about an audience, most of those methods involved at least one person who I could share with, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy knowing someone was reading the words I wrote.*
Technology has made it way more accessible for everyone to not only get the words out, but get them in front of others.
Everyone has a way to be heard.
The desire for this seems to be a common one. The affirmation that what we have to say somehow matters, whether it’s to entertain or educate, feels great.
But it seems in the rush to be heard, we haven’t really become any better at listening.
Getting caught up in our own words, I’d venture to say that we may actually be worse at it.
And that can make us pretty lousy friends, companions, and human beings in general.
Maybe it’s a product of our captive audiences in front of their screens.
In typing up a blog post, I can fully complete a thought (well, when my brain is cooperating) and express myself without interruption. A Facebook status, an Instagram pic, or a Tweet, while shorter, accomplishes the same.
My thoughts. Complete. Out there to be consumed.
I don’t worry about the audience “interrupting” or completing my thoughts for me.
But do I afford those I interact with the same courtesy? Or am I still in performance mode, quick to offer up my thoughts, quips, anecdotes, and advice?
Do you ever find yourself listening to someone else’s story and finishing their sentences?
Or thinking about what you are going to say in response?
What sage advice will you offer? What deeply personal story will you share?
Sure, you may think you are just helping the conversation along, but are you really? Or are you just trying to be the one who’s heard?
When was the last time you found yourself really listening to those with whom you interact?
Meaningful communication takes effort, time, and patience.
I know being a mom of two little ones, I’m inclined to rush. Maybe it’s the excitement over chatting with someone whose butt or nose I don’t wipe. Maybe it’s the not knowing when I’ll have to run off to fish a crayon out of someone’s nose, or a Lego out of the toilet.**
Whatever the reason, I’m not always the listener I want to be.
And if I’m not, how can I really expect to contribute in a meaningful way in my friendships and relationships?
I blogged a few years ago about empathy, and it’s importance in our day to day lives. I still love reflecting on the meaning, that to be empathetic, we have to “feel in”. We have to feel as if we were the person we are sharing with.
How can we ever show empathy (and in turn, compassion and care) if we don’t take the time to truly listen to those around us?I get to do plenty of the talking, albeit mostly through this blog and social media. I’d like to make it a point to do a whole lot more listening, online or off.
To that end, I’ve made a list of just a few things to keep in mind as I endeavour to be a better listener:
My Best Friend is a Square
Or, more accurately, a rectangle.
Oh, beloved iPhone. My constant companion. Which probably isn’t so great for all my other companions. You know, the human ones, competing for my attention over the ding and buzz of every Instagram like and Facebook comment.
Not only am I going to make an effort to put the phone away when I’m talking to people, I’m shutting off all those pesky auto notifications that demand my attention.
I mean, my phone DOES talk in an alluring British man’s voice, but I’d rather that not be my only friend.
I’ll Be There
I’ve got a lot on my mind. Full-time job, writing obligations, kids, family, etc… it’s easy to get lost in the never-ending to-do list in my head.
Or, let’s be honest, it’s easy to get caught up in story ideas as well.
Giving my full attention, not just the bit of my brain not currently occupied with what laundry load needs to be done next or what story scene I need to work out, is the least I can do when someone is sharing with me.
Wait For IIIIIIIT…
While it may not always be intentional, sometimes I find myself stepping on the ends of someone else’s story. Maybe it comes from growing up in a large (and loud) family. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t take much to wait for that FULL STOP before saying my bit.
Whatever I have to say, it will keep.
Enjoy The Silence
Being a social introvert, I’m not great with silences. Even brief ones. They leave me feeling anxious and can result in a crazy internal spiral of “what now” that isn’t pretty.
As a result, I tend to fill those silences. But why not ask questions that allow others to take that role?
And sometimes, maybe what the conversation needs is a beat of silence. Thoughtful reflection. A little discernment can go a long way.
Do you find you’re a better listener than you once were? How do you make sure you are doing your part?
*if you have published work and say you don’t have any desire to have an audience, you are probably not being honest with yourself
**I have not had to fish a crayon out of any noses, but the night is young…