Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Nobody Listens to Me

Poor Vincent, nobody ever listened to him. Well, maybe his brother Theo but then he too, grew tired of Vincent's whining.

Since most people, (I include myself) are only thinking about what they are going to say next instead of actually listening to the person they are in conversation with, does anyone actually listen to anyone - besides themselves?


My wife frequently says, "You never listen to me." Never is far fetched but I admit that sometimes I don't listen to her but other times I don't 'hear' her. The difference between listening and hearing is like the difference between looking at a Van Gogh painting and
seeing a Van Gogh painting. All my clients tell me that the biggest challenge they have is getting people to listen to and understand where they're "coming from". And that they don't feel fully appreciated because others don't listened when they speak. Again, so if everyone is speaking, who's listening?

I
know immediately when someone is not listening to me because the first thing they say after they have pranced upon the small breath I took between words is, "but". "But" translated into non-listener parlance means, 'I didn't hear a word you said and I really don't care what you said because I disagree with what you said and my idea is far superior and better than yours so why are you bothering to speak to me at all?!" Sound familiar?

Even if you disagree with someone (most people tell me that when they don't "like" someone, they disagree with them before one word is spoken) you want to really hear what they are saying so that you truly understand what you disagree with. "Wow, that's really mature and professional," you say, so why aren't we listening to one another?

As Winston Churchill said, "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." There is a lot of value in WC's short sentence and most of it is made up of verbs. Listening is an action as is speaking and silence is more powerful that endless chatter and bravado. Yet, we love to talk. I do too and it is when I listen that I am truly engaged with another. Someone said that the greatest gift you can give to another human-being is the gift of your ear. Simply listen to them. You don't have to comment or try to fix anything, just listen. Try it now. What do you hear?

I meet a lot of people because I am endlessly curious and I ask a lot of questions and because I want to learn about people I can't wait to ask the next question. But, (I have to use that here) I need to listen to their responses first or, and this has happened, they can't keep up with all the questions (in business jargon this is known as "driving your point home".)

Last night my wife and I had dinner with family and friends. We hadn't seen each other in quite some time, so there was a lot to catch up on which created quite a ruckus. My mother who recently starting using a hearing aid continuously asked with much frustration, "what did you say?" Because most everyone at the table wanted to be heard, much was lost by everyone (not my wife of course, because she truly is an excellent listener) trying to talk over each other and tell the next joke or story. We had a lot of laughs but my poor mother didn't hear much of what was being said. I drove home thinking that I need to speak slower, more clearly and check for understanding when I speak with her in the future. I think that this will be a good practice to keep going no matter who I'm speaking with.

If we would all listen to each other the world, your world (home/work) would be significantly quieter, peaceful and more productive. Now, what were you saying?
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