The other night, I was having a conversation with my boyfriend about a topic that we disagreed on. After a little while, he stopped me and said “can I finish a sentence?”
That was when I realized something that had been in the back of my mind for a while: I had lost a lot of my listening skills. Training in a socratic program is a great way to learn how to truly listen and absorb the information that others offer you, but after less than a year away from one, I had lost four years of practice.
The idea of listening rather than waiting to speak is one that has been thrown around quite a bit in recent years. I am definitely guilty of just waiting my turn, nodding my head, and keeping my mouth shut until it’s my turn to speak. Lately, I’ve been trying to be more aware of what exactly my conversational partner is trying to express and how I can acknowledge that in what I say next.
I had a call yesterday where I worked to remind myself of this as much as possible. I wanted to focus on the message they were sharing and offer something in return that clearly and concisely conveyed information that I thought was relevant. It was no longer about trying to shout from the rooftops everything I have accomplished and am capable of, it was about really truly understanding what they were trying to tell me.
I left that call with a better sense of their mission than I could have imagined. I felt relieved that my listening skills were not completely gone. There is still a lot of hope in my mind that I will become as good of a listener as I was when practicing socratic. It will just take a more conscious effort to be mindful.
The idea of being a listener rather than a conversationist is important in every aspect of communication. More often than not, people do not want solutions or advice thrown at them. They want to be heard and to feel as though someone empathizes or understands their situation. They want their frustration or hard work or achievements to be acknowledged.
Challenge yourself to be the listener to those around you. I am sure that you will find that you are one of a few people that want to hear and not to speak. Be willing to stay silent and patient and supportive of the person you listen to. Offer them relevant information when it is appropriate, but try to not make the conversation “about you” if it doesn’t add to the narrative they are expressing.
You will be surprised at how your relationships grow and change.