What’s so hard about listening?

Can you suppress your ego long enough
to think something through before you respond?

stopgirlCan you hold back your first automatic response in order to listen with intent, clarify any uncertainties, perhaps rephrase what was said, and ask the speaker to expand on their thoughts?

It’s hard, isn’t it? It takes intentional thought, training, and lots of practice. This kind of listening (the foundation of communication) is not modeled in the public sphere of our society. Our public forums are full of accusation, finger-pointing, drama, and alarmist language. We’re so busy “venting,” that we don’t consider whether or not our conversation or social media actually fits the definition of communication.

Communication begins with listening—without this first step, the back and forth of communication doesn’t exist.

If you want to know if you understand something,
try explaining it to a six-year-old.

Do you want to know if you are truly comprehending what another is telling you? ASK.
•  “Could you explain this to me as if I’m a kindergardener?”
•  “I’m lost. Will you explain this to me thoroughly from the beginning?”
•  “When you say ______ (i.e. “red”), I’m not sure what you mean. Could you show me?”
•  “It’s noisy in here, and I missed something. Will you repeat what you just said?”

Communication is a two-way street
on which we need to observe and use
turning signals, brake lights, speed limits, and cautionary signage.

To negotiate our way on the highway of conversation, to respond in an appropriate manner, we need to understand and retain what the other person has said.

Unfortunately, no two of us retain the same details. Some of us fixate on an exact phrase, while others hold onto a general idea. We want to believe that our first impression means we have done the work of communicating. We haven’t. We don’t really know what the other person is thinking or will say next unless we pause to ask questions, to reflect on what they’re saying.

Driving on the two-way street of communication
requires a response.

It’s not enough to assume that if someone is driving on “Communication Street,” they are heading toward the same destination as you are. You need to listen, interpret, read signals, ask for further explanation, before stomping on the gas pedal with your response.

Thanks to Shane Parrish for his blog that inspired me to cogitate on listening.

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