I need to work on my listening skills. It takes intention and practice. I come from a family of interrupters, so I don’t even know when I’m doing it. We know how to communicate with each other and it works for us, but other people who are from families who don’t communicate like this find it rude, I’ve found.**
My sister and I, for example, know that when we have a conversation, we’re both usually so excited about being together and the topic and agreeing and sharing, etc, that we will interrupt each other constantly. And it’s ok. And also, we’re free to ask each other to repeat something because we totally weren’t listening. Like blatantly, mind-elsewhere-didn’t-comprehend-a-word-you-said. (Also common between us: “Did you tell me _______, or did I dream it?”)
I’m reminded of my lack of mastery in this area when I’m talking to someone who intensely listens with constant eye contact and undivided attention. Recently, my boss was doing something and I started to tell her about serious news that was happening in my personal life that day. This extremely busy administrative officer whose mind is going a hundred miles an hour on a million different things, stopped what she was doing (writing) and looked at me to show that what I was saying was important to her. Mad skillz. It meant something to me that should would take a moment. And I’ve seen her act that way with other people.
It may be useful to note that different people have different ways of concentrating and contemplating. Just because someone is looking at something else doesn’t always mean they’re not listening; however, it doesn’t send a good message to the speaker. It’s more polite, thoughtful and meaningful to pay obvious attention.
So, memo to myself – SHOW the person that I care and am really giving my full attention by serious eye contact and by not interrupting (too often!), and if possible, stopping whatever else I’m doing. Unless I’m driving. If I stop that, I’ll be sure to pull over and park first.
In the meantime, while I’m still working on this, know that I do care about what you’re saying. Actually, what you’re saying could be super boring and hardly worth noting, but if it’s important to you, I will care because it matters to you.
**My grandmother does get credit for trying to straighten us out by saying “DON’T INTERRUPT ME, DAMMIT”, in her Boston accent. Somehow the lesson didn’t take, but it’s never too late to work on it and make improvements.
~~”I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” – Larry King