“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” (Stephen R. Covey)
I’m big on personal responsibility and confess that there are occasions when I’ve been guilty of listening with the sole intention of responding. These are instances when instead of really listening to who is talking I pay more attention to the response forming in my own head. I’m not proud of the times I’ve fallen into this trap because it’s rude and disrespectful.
I see an unwillingness to really listen all_the_time. It’s born of an inflated sense of self. We are so intent on offering our opinion and advice that we mow right over the person talking. Once we have shared our necessary pearls of wisdom we can sit back feeling quite satisfied in our rightness. Hey world! Look at us, all wise and oh so right and everything. (Fist pump!)
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” (Doug Larson)
Everybody has opinions. But guess what? We don’t have to express every single thing that crosses our mind! Yeah, because you know, not everyone is interested in our responses. Maybe all they were looking for was someone to listen. Novel concept, no?
One of the most basic human needs is to understand and to be understood. It’s a need we can fulfill for people simply by listening. It doesn’t cost us anything other than time. All we have to do is be still and pay attention to what they’re saying, not what is being said in our own heads. We do not have to fill lulls in the conversation with opinions, advice, or observations unless we are asked.
There is a time and place for what we have to say and a time and place for what others have to tell us. We have to learn when to be quiet and let someone else do the talking. It’s not easy. We have things to say! Things that we believe are of the utmost importance. But let’s call a spade a spade – sometimes it’s only important to us. Ouch.
The great thing about listening is it helps build trust and it can make someone else feel a lot better. It may not benefit us (or so we think) but that’s where we have to put our egos aside and not worry about whether there’s anything in it for us. We should do it because it makes someone else’s life a little bit better for that moment in time.
There is an entire industry filled with people we can pay to listen to us. People who, at the end of the day, go home and deal with their own problems. People who don’t actually care about us in the deep, familiar way as friends and loved ones. Yet for a price they are the ones who will listen to us. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for therapy, I know better, but I believe we could all improve our listening skills.
Even though I’m someone with a lot to say I don’t always need to say it and oftentimes I don’t. Listening isn’t as easy as talking but it has a great deal of importance.
“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” (Karl A. Menninger)