Definitely Listening

Have you ever wondered if anyone is listening? I have. And I don’t mean just with their ears. Like, is anyone paying attention to the inflections in my voice, or lack there of? Is anyone concerned that I am not able to accept a compliment? Does anyone worry that I seem to not find enjoyment in anything? People ask, “how are you doing”, but don’t really want to know the answer. They aren’t listening. They stare at their phones while you tell them about how you haven’t eaten much this week. They then complain about how they have no Wi-Fi service, and ask are you able to connect. Connect. Of course, the answer is no.

I haven’t been able to connect in years.

What if people actually listened twice as much as they spoke? Or for once, put their phones down and made eye contact with the person who’s talking. Does anyone know how to do that anymore? I am certain that if someone actually paid attention they would notice the bags under my eyes, and the fact that my clothes are about 2 sizes too big these days. They would notice I don’t dress as if I’m going anywhere, and maybe they would ask if I was all right, and listen to my answer. Maybe they would empathize with me, maybe we would be in the same boat, or perhaps they might have a remedy for my problems. Maybe they’ve been here before. What if people unplugged and tuned in?

How can we learn to be better listeners? Well, for one thing, we can start by actually caring what people have to say. If we care, we will listen. There’s no way around that. I listen to things I care about. Music, the news, those stupid housewife shows. People listen to those things because they are of interest to you. People even set aside time for those things. Some folks even plan dates around these events. Jay Z’s new album… Many know more about him than they know about their own family members. Because they listened. If we care at all about the people around us, we will listen to what it is they have to say.

What has becoming a better listener taught me? It’s taught me that I’m not always right. I had gotten it in my mind that I am right all the time. I’ve started listening to the viewpoints of others, and have discovered that sometimes, there is more than one right way to do things. Sometimes I’m just flat out wrong. And sometimes, I was right all along. I learned that other people have had the same issues that I’ve had. That I’m not alone in this boat. Sometimes you have to shut up and listen to realize there are other cries for help out there besides your own. Listening has made me a better mentor, a better teacher, and a better leader. I am able to assess the world around me better because I’m paying attention. I’m still learning to unplug. I am working on being a better listener every day. Being present. Being grounded. And being someone others can count on to listen to them in their time of need.  - NS