I am often witness to situations in which a conversation is going on between two people. Or, at least, that is what supposed to be happening. In reality, somebody is not listening. But often, even though somebody is not listening, the conversation continues anyway.
What’s the point, I ask, of continuing a conversation in which the communication is unsuccessful?
If the person talking is not listening, they continue to talk, unaware or unconcerned about whether the person they’re talking to really wants to hear what they have to say.
If the person being spoken to is not listening, the talker often continues to drive the point home, in spite of either 1) passive lack of attention to what is being said, or 2) a complete resistance to accepting the ideas being expounded.
And when both people aren’t listening, well … I guess it makes for some good bad TV.
If we didn’t tolerate an environment in which people are not listening, (1) we’d waste a lot less time and breath, and (2) the communication that does occur would have a lot more meaning and reach a much better level of understanding. We’d really want to listen to each other.
This has become very important to me. I want to be able to listen without thinking of it as a chore, and I want there to be a desire to hear what I have to say when I say something. This kind of awareness is a central measure of fulfillment in life: if you refuse to put yourself in situations where listening is hard or impossible (outside of, say, some family, work, and classroom environments you can’t avoid – and even in those, still, be as vigilant as you can), you will feel more connected, more fulfilled, less lonely, and more of a sense of purpose and integration in general.
What’s your listening account balance?
It takes a lot of energy to overcome listening barriers, and you’d better believe that psychological energy is like money. If you use your psychological energy in situations of listening liability, you will be spent without a return on your investment in listening. But if you refuse to invest your energy in listening liability situations and focus on listening asset situations, well … you’ll get a good return on your investment, one that you can re-invest in the form of listening more in order to connect more deeply, or maybe dealing better with those situations you can’t avoid in which somebody doesn’t listen.
Often, what is needed there is more listening to ourselves so that we can more efficiently manage our needs in relation to such people that we can’t avoid. So, as much as you can, tune in and be aware of whether an interaction or relationship is helping or hurting your sense of listening and being listened to. It’s really a central part of feeling good in life – feeling in-touch, feeling meaning, feeling like you are spending the time you’ve been given well while you still have it.
Simple step for better listening: Ask for clarification (short article)