Say What? I Need to Become a Better Listener?

Have you ever been called you out for not listening? It happens to me all the time with my husband. Blame it on my active imagination and ability to be deep in thought in any given second or any given topic. I try to look like I’m paying attention, but he sees my eyes drift, and that’s when he usually says, “What did I just say?”

I typically respond, “Umm, something about the kids?” 50/50 shot, right?

Nope. Not even close. On this particular instance he was talking about something that happened at work. At least I think that’s what he said. Here’s the thing, I truly cannot multi-task. It’s probably because I’m a writer, so if you want my full attention, write to me, text it or send it in an email – then I’ll be a captive audience.

And sometimes I truly am paying attention, empathetically listening to a friend’s heavy heart, but get caught up in my response, the advice I want to give in order to alleviate their pain. So am I really listening? Not really.

I set out to learn how to become a better listener. My go-to place to learn something quickly is Ted Talks. Why? Because they cater to people like me who have a limited attention span. And on this particular Ted Talk I only had to listen for seven minutes. Perfect! Just between us, I could have hung in there for 11 minutes. Anyway, here are 5 ways to STFU, quiet your brain, and become a better listener.

  • Have three minutes of silence per day. That’s it. How easy is that? If you’re in your car, turn off the music or talk radio. If you are at home with family, go to the bathroom for 3 minutes. Typically people don’t ask why you were gone so long, am I right? But this simple act of silencing your world will bring an appreciation to the quiet.
  • If you are in a noisy area, try to hear the different sounds around you. For example, if you’re outside, how many birds do you hear? If you’re at a bar, how many accents can you pick up? When you can isolate noise you can improve the quality of what you hear.
  • Savor the mundane sounds. That sounds a little weird, but next time your washing machine is running or your coffee maker is brewing, see if there’s a pattern to the noise. It’s referred to as listening to the hidden choir – not that my washing machine is singing “Lamb of God” but there’s generally a calm to it.
  • Fine tune your listening scales, for example, what is the intent of the words being spoken to you. Is it active or passive? Critical or empathetic? Is there a reduction or an expansiveness to their tone? What are the verbal cues you are getting?
  • And lastly, remember this anagram when it comes to the four areas of listening: RASA – receive, appreciate, summarize, and ask. As a culture who is a great risk for living isolated lives, we need to listen for two very important reasons: connection and understanding. Both are important to live fully.

The Ted Speaker, Julian Treasure, brought up and interesting point and challenge at the end of his talk. Listening is not taught in school. Not really. Other than a teacher saying, Be Quiet, our children don’t learn how to fully listen to another person. He’s right. In fact, next time my husband accuses me of not paying attention, I’m going to claim it’s because I never properly learned how, but I’m sure he’ll just ignore that excuse.

Missed last week’s Random Thoughts asking “Are We Alone?” Check it out here. And if you like my humor, please click on one of the share buttons. Thanks!

Say What? I Need to Become a Better Listener?
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