I am puzzled by the many times in a day that I overhear people conversating and realize that one or both people in the conversation are not listening. They are so busy anticipating what the other person is going to say and what they want to say next that they completely miss the direction and equation of the conversation. But they would swear they fully understood.
This is hard for me to listen to, yet there is little I can do. It is extremely frustrating when it happens to me personally. I find myself attempting to clarify something specific, but the other person is so stuck in their own world, they misinterpret what I’m saying because they’ve already assumed that they know what I am about to say. Because of this, when the words come out of my mouth the listener is in a totally different context, mentally, leaving our conversation quite dry and wandering.
In these situations, I typically try to find the easiest route out of the conversation. In some cases, it’s as simple as discontinuing what I was saying based on the obvious fact that they aren’t listening to me. If the topic is something important that they absolutely must understand, I will say, “You’re misunderstanding me…” or “What I mean is…” This is helpful to some degree but can still be a bit awkward. Though they may finally catch on to what I was attempting to communicate, there may still be some lingering continuation of their “other-world-ness” hanging on for dear life in the conversation that had nothing to do with the original idea. It happens. The ego doesn’t let go easily. Kindness is the best thing I can offer.
Has this happened to you? I admit I’m not always the best listener.
So, here are tips I hope to follow for good listening:
1- Be patient. Don’t rush the conversation. Being impatient in conversation is rude UNLESS there is a more important demand on your time. If there is, be gently honest.
2- Be present. Do less thinking ahead. Feel what is being said.
3- Don’t interject with different thoughts. Stay on topic. There’s a theme. Follow it. Contribute.
4- Ask questions for clarity. There’s no shame in being uncertain. In fact, being honest about uncertainty is wisdom.
5- Don’t assume anything except that you may not know exactly what they are saying, which in the long run will cost more time and cause more stress. When it’s your turn to speak, summarize what you think you are hearing. Ex. “Ok, what I think you are saying is… Is that right?”
6- Remember, this is all common courtesy that you would appreciate others giving to you. Don’t be the egotistical “know-it-all” who expects everyone to listen to you and yet you are a horrible listener.