I had a conversation with someone recently that went something like this:
Me: One of my real pet peeves is when people speak over me.
Other Person: Oh, I hate that too!
Me: I was once having a massive row with…
OP: I have a teacher in school who does that to me. It drives me crazy.
Me: Right, well, I was once having a huge row with a boyfriend because he…
OP: They do it all the time, it’s so annoying. I really hate that.
Me: You’re literally doing it right now…
What happened to Conversation?
It’s hard sometimes, isn’t it? Chats these days have to slot in-between all of the other daily tasks we must complete. Discussions are had with one eye on your phone in case you need to Google facts to back up your position. News is shared to a chorus of “Oh yeah, I saw that on your Facebook!” We seem to spend our days talking at each other, over each other, and through each other.
Now, I’m not pointing fingers here, I know I’m as much to blame as the next person. I’ll get annoyed at having to repeat myself and then five minutes later I’m the one with my nose stuck in the phone and trying to hold a conversation at the same time. I say trying, because although I’ll get the gist of whatever I’m talking to you about I’m missing all the nuances, aren’t I? The micro-expressions, the non-verbal cues, and – worst of all – I’m giving my conversation partner the most insulting cue of all…that their conversation isn’t worth my concentration.
Are we ALL bad listeners?
Surely, as a social species there’s nothing easier than listening to one another, right? Wrong. The truth is that most people come into a conversation with an agenda, even if they don’t realise it.
Whether your agenda is to get your own point across, to impress your conversation partner, or to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible, very few of us actually focus on listening to the other person.
Listening is very different to hearing. Even sitting quietly and allowing the other person to do the bulk of the chatting isn’t quite the same as listening. I can usually recite the majority of conversations I’ve had for a short while afterwards, but that doesn’t mean that I listened with the intention to understand the other person.
It’s a pretty crummy feeling, actually. Think about the last time you spoke to someone who was clearly distracted. Maybe they were texting at the same time. Perhaps they had small children that they were more focussed on. Maybe it was as simple as they had something else on their mind and just kept zoning out. We’ve all done at least one of these, but it doesn’t feel that nice to be on the receiving end of them, does it?
We all need to be heard
You may be asking what’s the point if we’re all quilty? Why should you put time and effort into being a better listener? What’s in it for you? Well, people will be more drawn to you and will tend to like you better. You’ll be a better friend, employee, parent, and even lover. Basically, you’ll be happier, because your attention will make those around you happier.
Great! Sign me up, you say. Below is a handy-dandy infographic for basic listening skills. Use them often. Practise as you would any other skill you want to master. Most of all though, have fun. Listen to those you care about (and learn to politely end conversations you don’t want to have rather than zoning out and wishing they’d stop!)
So what about you? Have you any sure-fire listening tips you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below.