“Are you even LISTENING TO ME??!!
Have you ever heard those words spoken to you? Chances are, if you are like me, you have probably heard them a lot. In my life, I generally hear this from my wife, and truth be told, she has been well within her right to do so.
The fact of the matter is, I have always had difficulty listening to others. It is not that I am not paying attention but has more to do because I get so excited to share that I jump in or cut someone off before they are done speaking.
I work at becoming a better listener. I try to remember all the simpleton advice, like maintaining eye contact the whole time or being patient and waiting for your turn. I have now realized that this advice is very shallow and generally meaningless if you lack interest with whom you are listening to. I now know this and am teasing it out in life:
Our relationships’ depth reflects and is in direct proportion of how deeply we can listen to the other person. Deeper listening = deeper connection.
But about a month, my listening ability changed forever. I was listening to an interview with Robert Greene (author The Laws of Human Nature), and he said something that struck me like a lightning bolt that I never thought of before. It was (paraphrasing here):
“Why is it that we are not a good listener? The root of it is that we are more interested in ourselves than we are of the other person. Some may deny, but the truth is we are more interested in our own thoughts, ideas, and things that we are certain about than about the other person, what they are saying, and what is going on inside of them.”
How true!!! He went on:
“That person we are talking to is more interesting than we think or imagine that they are. They are a book. Think of people in our life as characters in a movie. What motivates them? They are more interesting than we think! They have had traumas, family issues, successes…”
WOW! It sounds simple, but it is so spot on and practical. The trick here that is transforming how I approach conversations now is this:
When conversing, recognize that our initial assumptions about that person (or simplified story about them) are false or, at best incomplete. Fight the urge to put forward your ideas. Instead, be patient and ask yourself things like what are they feeling right now? Or, why do they think this? Be a seeker of their what and why.
Practicing these little thoughts will automatically make you a better listener.
Strong, connected relationships come down to the listening and emotion quality, not how much you have shared about your thoughts and ideas.
Quality of listening wins over quantity of exchanges.
As humans, we are a social animal, and how well we can work and listen to others will determine how far you can go in life.
A big reminder to wrap this one up: At first glance, we are not seeing the other person for who they are but are only seeing reflections of our own projections we have made about them. Don’t believe your stories about them. Fight the urge to interject and ask why. They will reveal their true self to you, the more deeply you listen.
.Photo by Kyle Smith via Unsplash