The Lost Art of Listening Part 4: Listening to Others
Listening is hard work and requires effort. Some of you may notice this post is on listening and run for the hills! But think for a moment. Why do we need to expend the patience and effort required to listen to someone else? Aren’t our stories more interesting, our feelings more important, and our time at a premium? Hopefully you’re smiling as you read that. The answer is yes and no.
Your life is important! It’s the only one you’ve got, and you own your time, emotions and decisions. But it’s our relationships with others that make our days worthwhile and our lives more satisfying. And our relationships must be reciprocal: We talk, they listen; they talk, we listen.
Everyone has a bad day when we want others to listen to us! That’s okay, as long as we are reciprocating the favor and our relationships have a healthy give and take. We need to remind ourselves that People Matter. It doesn’t matter if the person is the doorman, our boss, or our significant other – every relationship we have contributes to a satisfying life. The old curmudgeon down the hall that hates everybody is not a happy person!
Who Do I Have to Listen To and what’s the Minimum to Get By?
Great title isn’t it?, because that’s how we think! We’re stingy with our time because we have so little of it! But we all have moments every day, when we make conscious decisions to listen or not to listen.
Who do we have to listen to? Every important person in your life! Your significant other or your spouse. Your children. Your boss. Your coworkers. They all have something to tell you that will enrich your life. So you see, there’s even a selfish reason to listen! A better life!
And what’s the minimum to get by? That’s for you to decide! Do you want to just get by, or do you want to live fully with rich and satisfying relationships? It’s your call.
How Do I Listen to Others? It takes practice! Perhaps someone is telling you about a traffic ticket they received and your mind is already kicking into high gear with your own story of the time you and three other cars were going 90 mph on the freeway and -- stop. You realize you aren’t listening anymore. That’s when it’s a struggle in your brain to say “My story isn’t that important. I’m going to stop and listen to theirs.” You close your mouth. You look them in the eyes. You listen. And then you think, Wow!, this is really hard! But you just learned something from them that you didn’t know – something that will build a common history and understanding of their lives. You may even learn something you can apply to your own life: like how to get out of a traffic ticket.
As for the story you wanted to share? Maybe you can tell your traffic story when they are finished. Or maybe you can save it as an amusing anecdote for your next party. In a healthy relationship, there will always be a time for your turn.