Let’s face it. Listening is hard work. It doesn’t come natural to human beings. Well, except if it’s something we’re not used to hearing like a bomb going off or a car crashing. Those sounds get our attention. What tends to drown out in our awareness is the sound of a spouse or child or coworker or neighbor telling a story or describing the details of an event. We’ve become accustomed to their voice, their vocal intonations and cadence. Their preferences, tendencies and personality have become predictable, or so we believe. You know you’ve done it; you begin to assume (and oftentimes with amazing accuracy) where their thoughts will land. The problem is that sometimes we’re wrong.
“I hear you talking but I’m not listening to you.”
We’re not usually this direct or honest about our lack of focus. In large part it’s because we’re not even aware that we’re not listening well. We’ve become conditioned to “multi-tasking” which means only partially listening, especially with someone we’re familiar with. Strangers, or people we don’t know so well tend to be a different story. Our temptation there is to listen to our own chatter, or self-talk, more than we’re listening to the speaker. Social anxiety, even a mild version, can contribute to this tendency. The good news is that we can change all this with awareness, disciple and patience. We can become such astute listeners that our relationships, both intimate and impersonal can transform from good (or even bad) to terrific.
I sat in a seminar yesterday listening to a prominent Nashville, Tennessee attorney present on an unrelated topic but he made this point; if only people could learn to listen, truly listen, to one another most disputes could be settled without legal intervention (paraphrased).
Stay tuned. I have much more to say on the topic and you know you want to listen!
Until next time, peace.