Communication is not just about talking or waiting for a silent break so you can jump in and give your two cents. Being a good listener doesn’t always require a response. A knowing nod, or simple comment is often all that is needed. Often times people tend to follow with a similar story of what happened to them. Sometimes people just need to be heard, and coming back with a story of your own may feel like you are relating to them, but it can also feel like you are saying, “you think that is bad, check this out” and in the process dismissing or diminishing what they just shared.
My pups Max and Cooper are always listening. I swear I can be downstairs with the kitchen door closed and they can be upstairs, and they can hear me open the refrigerator or crack open a chip bag. I knew dogs have an excellent sense of smell and hearing, but I didn’t think it was on the level of the Six Million Dollar Man or the Bionic Woman.
Unlike Max and Cooper, I don’t have the greatest hearing and more times than not, I find myself asking someone to repeat themselves. A sense of hearing is my problem child. I have always known that there is more to hearing than taking in the sounds that pass through your ears. The second prong is being a good listener. Over the years I’ve heard people say things such as “lean in” so they know you are interested, “nod” so they know you are on the same page with them, or they ask you to make eye contact. There seemed to be a lot of facets to listening. I put most of those nuggets into practice, and I thought I was a good listener.
I swallowed hard one day when I heard someone make a comment that people listen with the intent of replying and not learning. If ever I was guilty of something, it was listening with the intent of answering. It wasn’t that I felt my response would be earth-shattering or enlightening; it was more that I wanted to mentally prepare my position on what was said so I wouldn’t look like a deer in the headlights if asked. I had an added habit of interrupting because I was afraid of losing my thought if we got too far into the conversation.
Would losing my view be so bad? Just like when I meditate, thoughts fly through at an alarming rate; does that mean I need to grab them and share them the second they happen? Did I need to share them at all? I ignore them when I meditate so why do I feel the need to make my thoughts known during a conversation? Isn’t it better to let it go and stay focused on what is being said? If it comes back, it was meant to be; if it doesn’t, c’est la vie. Do we need to share our similar story to send the message we “feel your pain or I hear ya?” I think there are other ways than bringing the story back to you. Repeat part of the story back, that must have been intense when …. x … happened. What was their reaction when you said …. x….?
I find sometimes that silence can be uncomfortable and people tend to fill each moment with idle conversation. It is okay to have a pause. There is something magical and bonding to share a silent moment with a friend, to enjoy the view, the sounds of waves or birds, or the relaxing sound of just being still.