Everyone have their listening ears on?
The #1000Speak for Compassion Blogging Movement – which aims to have bloggers flood the Internet with GOOD – is talking about listening and compassion this month.
I’ve often thought about the links between listening and compassion.
You see, I figured out early on in life that I have one of “those faces.”
I would be making polite small talk to someone at a party or in a bar – or anywhere, really – and suddenly there would be this unloading of personal STUFF they obviously needed to talk about and share with someone.
I remember one specific incident at my university bar. I finally excused myself from the situation with something to the effect of “I have to go to the bathroom” only to have the individual track me down a good 40 minutes later because “I hadn’t come back”, they weren’t done, and they (as I later figured out, on reflection) clearly needed to finish the full disclosure of what was bothering them and bring the discussion to a close.
In my earlier years I would find myself wondering what it was about me that made people I vaguely knew – or didn’t know at all – think I cared about their problems. What was it about how I politely asked “How are you?” that was read by so many as an invite to sincerely tell me?
I think, at its most basic, it came down to my parents raising me to be kind, polite and open-minded. And to LISTEN and be interested when people talked.
Simply put? I’m a good listener.
As I grew up, I figured out that sometimes people just need to get something out and off their chest.
And that there is compassion in just listening and letting them.
In letting someone else be heard. In acknowledging their issue, their problem, their idea, their voice.
Indeed, that’s what makes #1000Speak for Compassion so powerful. Not only does it give a space for many voices, but it provides a place to LISTEN and supportively respond to those voices.Preventing trees falling in woods unnoticed and all that.
We all NEED to be acknowledged and heard.
And while I’m pretty good at it – when I’m in the right head space – there are many times I can use a reminder to make listening a priority.
I’m thankful life throws them at me from time to time.
This prompt is a good example. Another was a leadership course I took about ten years ago for my job at the time.
I can’t even remember what the actual topic was, but in passing, one of the presenters made the point that if you find someone repeating themselves to you, it’s usually because they feel you haven’t heard them.
I’m glad I was listening then.
Because, after that, when I encountered “repeaters” I would try to interject in a way to politely show that I was, yes, listening, and both understood and heard the point.
It worked. Personally and professionally. With both adults AND my kids. And it certainly helps ensure I keep myself focussed on the conversations I’m having, as I’m having them.
Because being half there? Or only appearing to listen while going through a “To Do” list in my head? Presuming I know someone’s point before they make it?
Or checking my shiny phone while they’re talking?
Don’t get me wrong, it happens. But I TRY really hard not to.
Because at its simplest? It’s disrespectful.
I’ve recently been doing research about leadership for a work project where the topic has again come up in a professional sense, tied to the issue of respect and civility as key to a healthy work force.
Big part of that? Being heard.
And most of what I’m reading regarding listening and leadership applies to everyone in daily life.
Example? Check out this Forbes article touting “10 Steps to Effective Listening”.
So much of this? Just about being a compassionate and civil human being.
Face the speaker and maintain eye contact. Be attentive, but relaxed. Keep an open mind. Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying.
I stopped at #5: Don’t interrupt or impose your “solutions”. I am conscious not to do the latter, but am guilty of the former. I often joke that I “think fast” and so others should “keep up”, right? I “help” in conversations at times by finishing what I think are obvious thoughts. Shows I’m listening and understanding, right? I get where you’re going. Let’s move this story along, yes?
Apparently not so much. Onus is on me to understand we all think and speak at different rates and to relax my pace and let you finish.
I’ll put an added effort here in communications going forward.
I appreciate the opportunities to reflect and learn on these points. Once you are an adult I think there is a tendency to think you just know this stuff. But there is always room for growth and reflection.
Thanks to the #1000Speak Movement for creating the space online for so many of us to do just that.
I look forward to reading what others have to say on the topic.