“Listening” by Devon Sweeney & Dr. Eric Pappas

Have you ever taken a step back from your every day conversation to notice your communication habits? You know, how much time you spend talking, and how much others speak in a conversation.  Everyone occupies some part of the conversational spectrum—some of us are always talking, others of us like to keep quiet most of the time.  But have you ever thought about how much you truly listen to others? It’s not that you’re just casually “hearing” others, but are listening with interest to what others are saying?

It’s true that we all sometimes get caught up in our heads, listening to the constant chatter of our own thoughts, and don’t bother to listen in a respectful manner. That chatter can often be so distracting that we can’t fully engage in a healthy conversational flow, because we are so concerned with telling our own story.  It’s just simply not ALWAYS your turn to talk, even though you might think it so.

A good conversation is hard to find.  Some of us might not even really realize what a good conversation consists of.  Conversation requires give and take, and by listening attentively, we can get to know others better.  If one person is dominating the conversation, how can there be a positive and interesting exchange of ideas, opinions, or information?  When someone feels heard, it can be very satisfying. One cannot expect others to hear them if they are not listening to others in the first place.  And don’t we all just love it (and feel valued) when others listen attentively to what we are saying…without changing the conversation to talk about themselves?

Listening is more important to relationships than one might think.  One can always benefit from listening more because it allows the conversation to be rich and more dynamic.  Listening deeply can allow you to get to the real meaning of what a person is saying, instead of just hearing the surface level information.  Connecting with another person through conversation becomes a reality when we can truly tune in.  Relationships grow and strengthen when people learn to listen to each other and converse skillfully and sensitively.

Listening can give us a better understanding of ourselves and others.  So why not pay attention to how well you listen today?  You might be surprised to find that most of us don’t listen that much at all.  It can be a challenge to step back and hold your tongue, but the benefits are great.  It just takes a little effort to get started…by becoming more and more aware of your role in conversations.  You can even begin to be a more skilled conversationalist and steer conversations in different directions, not in a negative manipulative way, but rather in a way that includes enriching or deepening conversations. It makes validates your relationships when you ask your friends about things that interest or concern them. This is common sense, no?

The solution is to become more aware of your contribution and your receptivity in any conversation. What can you learn from being a bit quieter? Try just stepping back and listening more, engaging in lively conversations where you don’t always have to get the last word (or the only words).  Just know, this will lead to big discoveries!  You may learn something new about your friends that you never took the time to hear before.

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