Listening, really listening, can make a difference.
S- likes to talk. She really likes to talk. She really, really likes to talk. Unfortunately, this sometimes means she talks to the exclusion of listening.
Not long ago S- and a friend went to the park and played golf. The friend drove her home afterward and dropped her off in the parking lot. S- climbed out of the car, closed the door, then leaned through the window to thank her friend and let him know she'd had fun.
After several minutes her friend told her he had to go. He had something else he needed to get to.
"Okay." . . . blah . . . blah . . . blah . . .
Half an hour later she was still leaning through the window. She was still talking. He tried again.
"Great. But I really have to go. Maybe you can finish your story next time we get together."
"Sure. One sec." . . . blah . . . blah . . . blah . . .
It took an hour and a half from the time her friend drove into the parking lot to drop her off until the time S- pulled out of the window and let him drive away. It had the effect of making her friend choose not to hang out with her the next time she asked, and leery of agreeing to hang out with her anytime in the future. And it only happened because she wasn't listening.
There are several reasons people don't listen well. Some of them are:
- Focusing on our own thoughts, ideas, and stories;
- Assuming we know what the other person is saying or thinking;
- Trying to come up with our response before the other person is finished speaking;
- Being too tired, hungry, etc., to give our full attention;
- Coming into a conversation with prejudices or other preconceived notions.
How can you spend just five minutes overcoming your barriers to active listening?