I am one of those people who has a hard time focusing when someone is talking to me.
Let me explain a little bit of what happens inside of me when I’m engaged in a dialogue with someone.
They start talking. I’m looking at them. That lasts for all of three seconds and then I start looking around them. I’ll see something, maybe it’s a piece of hair out of place or an eyelash on their cheek. I’ll start thinking, should I say something? They’re still talking. As I consider whether I am being considerate or rude about whether or not to say something about the misplaced hair or stupid eyelash, I have not listened to the first thirty some odd seconds of what this person is saying. So, I tune back in, because, well, I don’t want to be rude, and I hear them say something with a voice inflection that basically says, “Can you believe that?” To which, I chime in, “That’s unbelievable.”
That’s unbelievable is a great go to. It seems to work every time. I have said “that’s unbelievable” so many times in my life when talking to people where I ceased to keep listening.
And yet, what’s truly unbelievable, is my lack of listening skill. My inability to be able to focus on the things that people are saying to me. The true meaningfulness behind what they are saying. Not projecting myself onto the things they are saying, but rather working within myself to find a way to increase my communication with these people.
I am also guilty of heading into a conversation with an agenda. Like, there’s something I have to say to this person and no matter how the conversation goes, I must say this one thing. It’s the ultimate trap that impedes true listening.
I was told recently by someone much wiser than I am that he feels that too often people don’t listen to the entire story of what happened. They hear one part and that’s where they draw their feelings from. That’s where they pass their judgment. He asked me why we don’t listen to the whole story.
And when my oldest son told this to me and posed that question, I got stuck.
And the only thing I could think of to say to him was, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Max.”
These are my parents.
They just celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary.
50 years of listening. 50 years of hearing the entire story. 50 years of understanding.
What I have learned from them and what my son taught me is the following:
- When someone is talking to you, look at them. Don’t look around them.
- Consider the things being said to you as if it’s the most important thing that person can share.
- Don’t go into a conversation with an agenda.
- Allow for the entire story to be told.
I will work on these things.
I will listen to myself.
And If I am successful at this, well, that could actually be something that’s truly unbelievable.
Such is the lesson of Listening.