Listening is a forgotten art.

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Whether it is due to our ever-decreasing attention spans … or our “us versus them” mentality … or the fact we don’t like change … or …

Whatever the reason (or, more likely, reasons), listening seems to be going the way of the dinosaurs. It’s dying. It’s going extinct.

That may sound strange given the fact we talk to many people in the run of the day and that involves both talking and listening, but I am referring not just to hearing someone speak, but to actually listening to what they are trying to say.

We all too frequently listen to respond rather than listening to understand.

We engage in conversations (in person and online) and within the first sentence or two are working up how we will respond to the points raised. We very rarely seem to actually stop and think about what the other person is trying to say, why they may be saying it, and what might be going on in other parts of their life that could be making them think about this.

I know I am far too often self-absorbed with my own issues, work, thoughts, and concerns to stop and think about somebody else. (I have a fantasy football team to plan; I don’t need anything else on my plate.)

Whatever combination of the many causes, listening is slowly becoming a dying art.

And for that reason, I have started a social experiment for myself. I’ve decided to try the following for the next couple weeks at least:

  1. In every conversation I am going to try to listen closely to the people I am speaking with. What are they saying? Why are they saying it? What are they not saying that is motivating the conversation (if anything)?
  2. I am going to give people my full attention. My devices will be ignored while speaking to others in the same room or on the phone. When I am emailing others or using social media, I will try not to get distracted by sports scores or other things and pay attention.
  3. I am going to think before responding. I am going to try to take the time to listen to what is being said before thinking about my response.
  4. I am going to try to remove my need to have the last word. Discussions do not need me to finish them off with a final thought, so I can learn to be comfortable letting others have the final word.
  5. I am going to avoid simply “arguing with people” to get my point across and instead listen to the points others are trying to make. While I don’t have to agree, I want to make sure I am giving their points the “brain-space” and thinking time they deserve.

I am sure there are more things I will think of as I go along, but I have a suspicion it will make all my social interactions much more pleasant (and a lot more work ;)!


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