Over the winter break I was at party with a talented, but rather loud band playing. I kept trying to have conversations with other party goers but I only picked up every few words. I got the gist of what others were saying, but I missed many of the nuances and details and I relied on the speaker’s body language and facial expressions to help me fill in the gaps. I realized I had to work hard and be really aware of all the ways people communicate in order to carry on the conversation. This led me to thinking about how I normally listen in my everyday non-party going interactions.
Without the constraint of a loud space or an incredibly soft speaker or a language barrier, it is easy for me to settle for the gist of what someone is saying or think I understand when I am just skimming the surface. The constraints, on the other hand, actually make me a more mindful listener. So in 2018 I want to add some constraints to my listening in order to more deeply understand and empathize with others.
Here are a few practices I plan on trying:
Mirror more. Make comments that show I am listening and reflect back what I just heard.
Ask more questions. For every comment I share, try asking twice as many questions of the other.
Listen with my ears and eyes. Physically pay attention and focus my visual attention on the person’s posture, gestures, and facial expressions.
Let people know when I am not in a place to listen. Sometimes my listening is sub-par simply because I am distracted and can’t summon the attention needed to listen. I can give myself permission to share this with the person and set up another time soon to really be present.