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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Art of Listening

In an ever evolving and fast paced society of 'me me me' and instant gratification, it seems we tend to not listen as much as we should. I've experienced it in personal relationships, where I've talked my heart out, and yet wasn't felt 'heard'. I wondered, did they listen to anything I said? You see people screaming at each other over issues in politics and wonder is anyone really listening and trying to objectively understand the other person's point of view? Sometimes in our own enthusiasm to share or let the other person know how we feel, in relation to what they are saying, we may miss something. With friends or family, they may not always want advice, rather they may just want someone to 'listen'.

This phenomenon isn't unique to personal relationships, it happens in business. I started to notice how many times either I was being cut off, or in fact I was doing the same. It seemed as though each person is rushing subconsciously to make their own point. I was particularly frustrated and decided that the first thing I was going to do from that day was to make a conscious decision to slow down. It all begins with you, right? I remain focused on what they are saying, not thinking about what point I want to make, until they have finished their thought. If appropriate I ask questions about whatever they said. This reinforces to me that I had 'heard' them, and in turn perhaps the person on the other end will do the same by slowing the pace of the conversation whenever possible. Being in the moment, and not already jumping ahead to the next point or thought has become something I try to remain keenly aware of.
One of the lessons I've learned in life is we can't change people, but we can change ourselves.

Social experts and therapists always tout communication, it seems as though we need to cultivate the art of listening as a major part of that process.