This post first appeared on Cathy’s blog, An Empowered Spirit.
Recently I was talking to someone about the frustrations of selling our beloved home. It’s our dream house and we think it’s beautiful and absolutely perfect, but so far no (sane) offers.
I could write a book about the outrageous cast of characters who’ve paraded through our home with their crazy questions and comments. You would not believe it.
It’s been a frustrating and altogether maddening experience.
When I was finished telling this to a friend she blankly stared ahead, waited a few seconds and then remarked, “In our town homes are selling like hot cakes. I don’t know what your problem is.”
I remember having a conversation with someone about the financial difficulties my husband and I were having. We were both working tirelessly because of a few downturns we’d recently experienced and we had to tighten our belts. It was a scary and unnerving time, and I thought that talking it over with a friend would help me feel better.
When I was through telling my friend about my feelings there was more than a pregnant pause; there was a choir of crickets. The silence was deafening and when it was finally broken I had to endure listening to stories of recent career successes, luxury items purchased and early retirement planning.
Ordinarily I’d be happy for my friend, but that day my psyche was not set on happiness mode.
I’m thrilled when good things happen to people I care about. I’m always in their corner applauding their joys and accomplishments. It’s wonderful to feel their happiness and I feel happy for them.
But when you take a leap of faith by opening your heart to someone and they’re too busy waiting impatiently for their turn to speak or pass judgment, that’s a whole other story.
As a health advocate I have to be a good listener. It’s my job. So it comes in handy that I was born with a personality that enjoys listening to and helping others. I try to walk around a bit in someone’s shoes to get a feel for how they’re feeling. My patient advocacy training reinforced this skill by stressing the importance of being an active listener.
Listen to someone’s words and feel them in your heart.
Remember listening to the radio? No cell phones or tablets distracted us from listening. In our parent’s generation entire families sat in front of the radio to listen to The Jack Benny Show or Gunsmoke, focusing on what they heard and sharing listening time with loved ones.
What’s happened to the art of listening? As children we’re taught to wait until it’s our turn to speak. As adults we lose that ability. Our lives are rushed at a frantic pace with tablets, cell phones, entertainment, family, friends, employers, neighbors, and our responsibilities in the course of a day all vying for our attention.
Look here! Read this! Like this! Post that! Tweet that! Do that!
Our brains feel like they’re about to explode and our wiring becomes frayed. Are our brains on overload without any more room to actively listen?
“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
We can improve our skills through active listening. Active listening is making a conscious effort to hear what the other person is saying, and understanding what message the speaker’s words are conveying.
Here are a few do’s and don’t of becoming an active listener. The steps sound simple, and we think we’re already practicing them. But I believe we all fall short. If we all begin to practice becoming better active listeners our world would be a kinder, more compassionate place to live. And to me, that means everything.
- Don’t argue. Don’t get distracted. Don’t lose focus. Don’t interrupt with counter arguments. Don’t pass judgment.
- Do pay attention. Do look at the speaker. Do repeat their thoughts. Do be candid, open and honest without judgment. Do acknowledge you heard their words. Do be encouraging and thoughtful. Treat the other person as you’d want to be treated.
I encourage you to take the time to listen to each other. After all, it takes a community of listeners to make our world a better place to live.