We are horrible listeners. We just are. There are many reasons for this but most of them fall into one of two categories. the first being distractions around us and the second being distractions inside of us. The worst part about our horrible ability to listen, is that when we become distracted while others are speaking to us, we are essentially telling them that they are not important to us. Oh, I'd pay attention to you but you aren't more important than this text I just got. Or that person that's walking down the street behind you. Or the thought of what I'm going to do later today. Or what I'm going to say in response to what you just told me.
If we consistently communicate to others that what they say to us is not important, eventually they will just stop talking. When there is no communication, there is no realtionship. The scariest part of all of this, is that our poor listening often goes beyond just the relationships we have with the people around us to the relationship we have with God.
So, how can we become better listeners? I'm glad you asked!
One of the tools we can use is to start practicing what is called "mindful listening". Websters simple definition of the word mindful is to be aware of something that may be important. When we practice mindful listening we keep ourselves aware that what someone is saying may be imortant to us and we in turn pay full attention to their words. This isn't always easy since both outer and inner distractions seem to come at us a mile a minute. In order to better practice mindful listening here are a few tips that I found:
1. BE PRESENT
Focus on the person who is speaking. If there is too much going on around you then see if the two of you can move the conversation somewhere where there are less distractions.
2. CULTIVATE EMPATHY
Often when someone is speaking to us we are spending more time interpreting what they are saying through our own lens of experience so that we can form a response. We will listen better if we try and see what a person saying from their point of view. It doesn't mean we have to agree with them but we can acknowledge the other person's perspective.
3. RECOGNIZE OUR OWN "CUES"
Our cues are the thoughts, feelings and physical reactions we have when we feel anxious or angry, and they can block out ideas and perspectives that we're uncomfortable with. Essentially once someone says something that we don't agree with we tend to shut down/off. If we learn to recognize our cues we can choose to remain open minded as someone is talking so we can fully hear them out.
If reading these tips has helped you or maybe sparked an idea of your own on how to listen better feel free to comment and let us know!