Just like many people, I would like to think of myself as an “okay” listener. Unfortunately, I’m not the best. My dad likes to share stories from his workday with me, and as he tells them, he takes long pauses. I often think he’s done when he isn’t. Sometimes, he gets frustrated with me and responds with, “Well, I guess I’m done with that story” or “That was rude.” He’s right, it is rude, and I shouldn’t do it. In fact, we all tend to interrupt people at some point, whether we mean to or not.
What can we do about it? Personally, I’m learning to become a better listener every day. It’s definitely a learning process, but it’s worth it. I started looking at becoming a better listener differently when I first watched this great Ted Talk about ten ways to have a better conversation. One of the key points of the talk is listening. So how do I think people can become better listeners? Well, I think there are two major parts to this that many people don’t think about and haven’t even considered: willingness and respect.
If a friend has something they have been excited to tell you or tell you something that’s not easy for them and it takes a lot of courage, it would mean the world to them if you actually listened.
By respecting the time it takes them to say all they feel necessary to tell you, you’re showing them respect. It could be a conversation about a breakup or someone needing support. It could be sharing something exciting. Whatever it may be, show the person sharing their thoughts with you that what they’re saying matters.
If we all approached conversations with more respect and a willingness to be open-minded to what others are saying, we could create a stronger sense of community all around. It could help us find common ground with those we couldn’t see eye to eye before. Of course, it will take practice, and it won’t be easy. But the more we engage in conversation this way, the easier it will become. It may even lead to two people working together and solving something.
I believe that society has taught us how to over-talk to each other and push our views on everyone whether they match those who we are talking to or not.
People tend to believe that speaking aggressively will validate their viewpoints. However, we need to understand that all stories are two-sided, and perception is everything. Giving someone the respect to hear their side of the story can open many new doors.
Everyone has a story to tell. They are all beautiful, and sometimes also sad. We all have stories to share that need to be respected and deserve the right to be heard. Actively listening tells someone, “I’m here,” and “You matter.” It also tells them that even though you may not fully understand their situation, you’re happy to be their safe space to vent. After all, respectful listening can open up a world of potential for our society and the generations to come.