Listening is an essential skill that lays the foundation for learning. It has brought us where we are today: we told each other stories, we found shared values and worked together towards common goals and we helped each other access the knowledge that we already had within, by simply gifting our time and full attention to each other.
But well, before we could listen in order to learn, we had to learn to listen.
In the era of social media and instant contact, it feels as if we forgot how to listen.
An endless stream of rhetorics is competing for our attention, we engage, criticize, support, or cancel.
We’re not listening to understand, but to answer and confirm our own point of view.
Here’s the thing: we can only learn new things and challenge our viewpoints through listening.
We already know our stories and beliefs so the most valuable way to use our time in a conversation is to hear what the other has to say.
And as always, self-awareness plays a crucial role in our ability to derive meaning.
Taking a deeper look at yourself, your history, your inner voice, and your blind spots, will help you improve your capacity to listen and be a good conversation companion.
Find below three invitations that will help you get a better perspective on what supports listening and what diverts it.
#1 Think about the great listeners in your life. How do they make you feel?
Do they make you feel respected, interesting, valuable, and seen? Are they genuinely curious, never interrupting, and asking the right questions only when you’re done saying what is on your mind?
Isn’t this the way you would want those you have conversations with to feel like?
Examining and then reproducing the great listeners in our life is an efficient way to become good conversation partners ourselves.
#2 Think about the people in your life that are hard to listen to. Why is it so?
Your conversations probably feel like a race, where brief moments of silence are immediately filled in with words that have to reinforce a position or prove how much and how well the person knows about the subject.
You must feel so very tired and, well, not listened to.
Sometimes, defining how one mustn’t be is a good enough start. By making a list of no-noes you get to do more of the good stuff.
#3 Bring to mind a place that you usually visit while listening to music or podcasts. Go there tomorrow headphone-free.
Think of a place or routine where or during which you use to listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks. It can be the subway in the morning, the park while you walk your dog or the supermarket in the evening.
Even though listening to music or people speaking can enrich our experience, we risk living life isolated in impenetrable bubbles, not paying enough attention to the things that are happening around us in the present moment.
Listening happens exactly in those moments of tuning in when we notice the little things around us.
Try it tomorrow. Go to your place of choice and tune in to what is happening device-free.
There are many ways we can challenge the way that we got used to listening. Learning it from others – examining good and bad alike – and being present and focused are good ways to start.