So, how about REALLY listening to those around you? Once you master that, then maybe you can go out and fix the world beyond. I cannot tell you how many times I have committed to doing this…to really listening. I would compare this effort to speeding, when I was younger. NOTE: Now, I regularly drive about 5-7 MPH over the speed limit. I do not do this for safety or because I think that the speed limits are correct. It is just not worth it to me to get a ticket AND have my time wasted by a stop. Anyway, back in the day I would speed EVERYWHERE, then I would get a ticket and drive around at speed limit-speeds for 6 months. Eventually, my probation would expire and my carefulness would wear off. Then, I would speed again.
This is a lot like how I listen in my life. I am ALWAYS preoccupied with something (with a lot of things, actually). My child, my wife, or a coworker will be talking to me and I suddenly realize that I was not listening. Even worse, the talker will realize it and then ask, “Are you listening to me?” BUSTED! Whether I realize it or I am busted by the speaker, this is like getting that speeding ticket. It is time to slow down and really listen. But how do I do that? My favorite way to do that is called Active Listening.
There are many way to actively listen, but here’s my technique:
- Stop what you are doing (no typing, watching TV, texting, writing, etc.).
- Turn and look at the speaker (as long as you are with the speaker).
- Really, really try to comprehend; stop thinking of other things.
- Do not formulate rebuttals in you mind. Be open to what you hear.
- When there is a pause, repeat what the speaker is saying in your mind.
- When the message has been delivered, then you can paraphrase what the speaker has said to you: “So let me see, what you are saying is…”
- Ask questions at opportune times, if you do not understand: “One moment, did you mean that…?”
- Take the time afterward to reflect on what someone has told you. If you are unclear, follow up with them. This shows that you took the time to receive the message and have thought it through.
This is just one way to be virtuous with your “we.” Your interactions with those closest to you define who you are. If I am not listening to them, then I am not a good listener, and that does not honor those closest to me who are trying to communicate with me.