L I S T E N. 

There are many conversations I've missed in my life. Either I was too busy, too distracted, too focused on my response, or too tired to truly listen. There is a major difference between hearing and listening. I can hear what someone is saying - the tone of their voice and notice words coming out of their mouth - without actually listening to them.

It's embarrassing. You know, to have a full conversation with someone and not be able to summarize what they said.
And then, we expect others to listen to us and are discouraged or frustrated when they don't. 

Can anyone else relate? 

Have you ever been listened to? I'm talking about having the full, undivided, genuine attention of someone. 

It makes you feel seen. 
It makes you feel cared for. 
It makes you feel valued. 
It makes you feel less alone. 
It makes you feel loved. 

In a world where everyone is constantly fighting to be heard, we have forgotten the art of listening. 

I remember a time when a close friend was sharing about a difficulty within her family. When she was finished sharing everything, I said, "wow, I'm thankful that isn't happening in either of our families". 

She stared at me. 
I realized I'd missed all of it. I thought she was talking about someone else's family. I wasn't listening to the details and missed the most important ones. 
I was embarrassed. She was hurt. 

If you're cringing at my mistake, I don't blame you. Maybe you haven't been in this position yourself, but my guess is that most of us here have. 

Listening involves being open and receptive. It requires not filling in the gaps with your own ideas. If we assume that we fully understand what a person is saying, it hinders our receptivity and curiosity. 


T I P S   F O R   L I S T E N I N G 

Eye Contact - this is an obvious one but we live in a highly distracted culture. Put your phone away, and look at the person talking. 

Practice active listening - respond with open ended questions and/or use the method of summarization ("So, what I'm hearing you say is..."). Listening isn't always entirely silent, sometimes it requires you to ask furthering questions to better understand what the person is saying. 

Verbally show that you're with them - by using short verbal responses, the person sharing will see that you're with them throughout the conversation (i.e. "Yeah", "Of course", "Mmm", "Sure").

Don't think or judge while you listen
 - If you think about how you're going to respond, or make judgements about what the person is disclosing to you, you won't be able to listen. Judgement closes the doors to giving and receiving. Be neutral. Show up for the person sharing. Listen how you would want to be listened to. 

Create an environment that's conducive for quality conversations -  "ideal" environments without distractions are hard to come by. We are constantly surrounded by distractions and things vying for our attention. But, we can take small steps to cultivate environments for good conversation. If you feel distracted during a conversation, make a suggestion to move to another location. Not only will this help you to listen, it will communicate to the other person that you care about what they have to say. 

J U S T  B E G I N. 

We don't grow overnight so don't expect yourself to. Just begin practicing these tips and go from there. 

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