With an attention span limited to only around 8 seconds (less than goldfish, according to an article by The Telegraph), we could say that humans nowadays are everything but a listener. Our world has become so hectic and fast, the idea of sitting together to talk about our virtue and sorrow becomes so unattainable–almost magical. Things that could have been said in person is shifted to a mere phone call. Things that could have been told through a phone call is shifted to an exchange of e-mails. Things that could have been conveyed in written words is shifted to a shorter chat texts. And what could have been expressed today is shifted to tomorrow, next week, next month — most likely will end up as a forgotten plan.
Your true love is probably passing your way back and forth today, this minute, this second. That person might be looking at you while you were reading this post, thinking: “Oh Dear, where have you been?” But nothing will happen. Fate won’t even matter. The universe is currently deploying all sorts of romantic schemes for both of you but nothing will budge because no one is capable of being a good listener. You’re probably too busy reading upon human nature subject, your brain is whirring, making time and place for your countless tasks and schedules — and so does your should-have-been true love. No one is paying enough attention. No one is actually making efforts to know what makes the other person ticks. Our selfish true self often demands to be known of, to be fancied above anything else, little did we know that intimacy comes from mutual understanding, and the only way to fulfill it is by listening to what the other person needs to say.
To be fair, the big question is not just “How to be a good listener” but also “How to be listened to”. After all, it takes both sides to make a conversation works, isn’t it?
How to be a Good Listener
Moya Sarner from The Guardians described three meaningful steps to deal with someone who is probably looking for a willing ear:
- Don’t interrupt. Whatever you intend to say, whether you’re about to instill a positive affirmation into the conversation or probably reveal that you have the same past experience, just don’t. Keep your mouth shut and let the other person fully express his/her feelings. Most of the time, we want the other person to feel good by knowing that we are – in fact – understand exactly what kind of sorrow and anxiety that person is currently having in his/her life. We’ve been there, we are done with it, and we could exactly tell them what they need to know to feel better. It works with us, it should work for them too, right? But let’s focus on what the person actually requires, not something that we believe the person needs. That person wants to talk his/her things through. Give that to them.
- Don’t be afraid of silence. This is actually a bit challenging to do because we are social creatures. Society has taught us the importance of being nice and charming, and one popular way to do that is to make sure that every meeting, whether formal or informal, private or group, is filled with conversations. We saw our elders making a small talk: love life, job, education, etc. Where do you live? What are your hobbies? Where did you buy that beautiful scarf? Such a nice weather, isn’t it? Oh and by the way, where do you live again? — You don’t have to bring most of your concentration into the talk, just make sure that you’re constantly seen as someone who’s interested in making the talk, even if you’re actually not. We are expected to do the same. We are unconsciously trained to initiate connection wherever we are, whoever we meet. Some of us are more than happy to comply, others are probably born without such passions, but still, we all know the norms. The thing is, people often forget that the best way to form a bond with someone is by determining what that person needs from his/her surroundings, as well from us. A distressed person might need to be heard, sometimes a mere feeling that someone is there for his/her would do. Even it’s soundless, silence could deliver a thousand meanings, one of its amazing messages are: take your time, we don’t have to talk right now, think your words through or cry for as long as you want, I’m here for you.
- Don’t assume. Listen to the other person as if you knew nothing about him/her before. Listen carefully, don’t jump to your own conclusion, don’t judge. This could be hard, especially if you’re dealing with someone close to you. That person could be your family, your spouse, your long-time best friend. You feel that you already know this person, you know that person’s life milestones, his/her traumas, passions, aspirations. You have all the knowledge and information that you need about this person, that means you could predict what would be the best for that person too right? It could be, but it’s not entirely right. A person could change. Something might not work as it works before. The best possible way to get the best possible result can only be attained by being a good listener.
How to be Listened to
What if you’re the one who needs to be heard? What could you do to make sure that your message is successfully delivered? It may sound unreasonable at first, being extremely sad and still having a burden of thinking about anyone but yourself. But apart from its being a common courtesy, it won’t hurt to have more awareness of your surroundings, in this case, paying enough attention to the person that you wish would listen to your problems.
Here’s what you could do to induce a worthwhile conversation:
- Mind the other person’s schedule and mood. It doesn’t mean that you have to wait until the other person is free from his/her tasks, but this could help you maintain your own expectation towards the other person. Each human has their own problems, your listener is probably going through some sort of trials and tribulations too and that might affect their current-behaviour and their capability to respond. Don’t expect them to give you good advice all the time. Do not burden them with the responsibility of making you happy and stress-free. It’s good enough if they are willing to listen and acknowledge your pain. You are your own full-time cheerleader, they are just there to liven up the game.
- Spare some time to think about the reason about why do you want to talk to that person in the first place. What do you need from them? Is it advice? Is it because you knew that the other person has been through something similar in the past? Or you’re only want to be heard and nothing else? Expressing your needs clearly before everything else could help the other person focusing their energy and concentration more effectively.
Being a good listener is as important as finding the best way to be listened to. Both are crucial to instigate a fruitful conversation. As an American author, John C. Maxwell once said, “Becoming a good listener, you are able to connect with others on more levels and develop stronger relationships.”, There are so much you could gain from being a good listener, it’s not just for the sake of people around you, but it could also help you gain more in terms of relationship intimacy and self-actualization.