This is a “be honest with yourself” question. So try this rating scale.
1 (I am truly lousy) _______________________ 10 (I am amazing!)
Okay, it is important to start this process with a little humor. Humor can relax you to a point of deeper honesty. And all humor aside, how you listen is essential to the quality of your relationships, and over time to your effectiveness in every area of your life.
It’s more important right now because we face such divisiveness in our country. No matter which side of any political debate you raise a banner for, you are highly likely to run into people both at home and at work with whom you disagree — sometimes vehemently. LISTENING plays an enormous role in how those disagreements get resolved…NOT LISTENING simply leads to lack of resolution.
What keeps most of us from listening thoroughly, completely, respectfully? Try these possibilities…..
-I KNOW I’M RIGHT and can hardly wait to say so!
-YOU(the other person) are totally mistaken! And I want to tell you so!
-If you (the other person) will just listen TO ME, we can figure this out.
-If you just listen to me and do what I say, we can figure this out. (This one ups the ante a bit)….
-No one ever listens to me, so I have to interrupt.
-No one really cares what I think so I’m going to have the last word.
-I missed most of what you said and I don’t want to admit it, so I will just say what I NEED TO SAY
-I have trouble listening because my focus is off — I’m distracted easily.
-I don’t want to hear what you have to say — this can be for many different reasons…
You may be able to list many more reasons/possibilities for your poor listening skills. So make some notes if something has registered in a “light bulb” manner.
Just remember this: Listening — thoroughly and completely — will improve every relationship in your life! When you truly hear what the other person says, you feel more connected, even if you disagree.
Here’s a test: Listen quietly and completely before you respond. The way you TEST that is to see if you can paraphrase (repeat back as accurately as possible) WHAT the person said before you respond. If you can’t even summarize, you ARE NOT LISTENING.
You can also test how quickly you begin to formulate your own response while the other person is still talking. And at some point, try to examine “what that’s about”…..anxiety? anger? the need to connect even if the connection is negative? Your answer?
Examine your anxiety in a conversation when you have to slow down and listen. Raised anxiety indicates some kind of discomfort, sometimes even fear. Lowered anxiety typically indicates a connection is taking place.
See what you think. Rate yourself. Test yourself. You might not turn out to be RIGHT about the content of the conversation, but what if you felt, instead, that the relationship improved? Beyond that, what if you learned something?
If nothing else good comes of listening more carefully, I will predict that you will feel less stressed! That’s the main point. You deserve to feel good….perhaps far better than you do. And as always, if you are concerned about anxiety, depression, relationship conflicts, please talk to someone. Oh, and for sure listen to what they say! I’m always around for questions.