A Lesson in Listening

Happy Friday everyone! 

I apologize for being a bit behind on posting lately- I feel a bit like a circus monkey juggling a dozen things at the moment. But hopefully, today's post and weekend challenge will make up for it.

Being a good listener is not an easy feat. Unfortunately, being heard is something we all want and need, yet sometimes it feels like people around us aren't hearing what we truly have to say.

After all, if Beyoncé has to yell to get people to listen, it can't be that easy.

All jokes aside, sometimes asking for someone to listen can be a request that doesn't quite get fulfilled. I'd wager that the vast majority of people would consider themselves to be good listeners, yet that's rarely the case. The intention to be one is there, but sometimes our desire to help and reciprocate thoughts gets in the way. 

So how can you be a better listener and really hear what people are trying to tell you?

Never listen with the intent to reply.

I never liked the phrase, "wait your turn to speak."

It implies that you already have a response loaded up and ready to shoot before the other person is even finished with their thought; therefore, you're probably not really listening to the whole of what the other person is trying to get at. 

In one of my acting classes I took back at NYU, we did an exercise during which we were paired up and had to tell each other stories of our lives for 3 uninterrupted minutes. As in, the listener of the story was not allowed to reciprocate in the conversation even with nods or "yeahs" that are so common now.

Goodness. That was quite the struggle for everyone. It made us all realize how we try to show that we are engaged in conversation through these simple affirmative gestures, yet it actually tends to stop the other person short in sharing everything they wanted to, in full. 

Sometimes, what a person needs is not an answer to their problems, but a willing listener to hear their feelings.

I honestly don't think I really became the kind of good listener I wanted to be until I became a trainer.

With my job, I have to be an information sponge and gather details on my clients lives that they might deem irrelevant or unimportant in regards to training, but for me, everything matters- it affects my coaching style, my verbiage, the identification of hurdles to tackle.

Why was I not such a great listener at first? By nature, I am a "fixer-upper." It can be a great thing, and I think that's a characteristic that drove me to my current career, but sometimes I will end up frustrating myself to no end trying to find answers or solutions that may not exist. It can be hard watching loved ones go through tough times without offering pieces of advice, but sometimes a problem simply needs to exist- to be experienced and learned through. 

My challenge for you this weekend:

When interacting with others this weekend, resist the urge to interrupt their words with affirmations (nods, "yeahs," OMG's!), and simply listen with an open mind without the intent to reply.
Truly listen and soak up their words. 

Have a good weekend, everyone- My New Yorkers, soak up this 40 degree and sunny weather- finally!