Listening is a life skill. Everyone knows that.
We’ve all seen self-help gurus, thought leaders, TED talks, psychologists and the latest news and research share how we should all be listening more than we speak…especially in a society where attention is scarce and distractions are plentiful. Everything seems to be TL;DR.
Listening skills are crucial for developing strong relationships. I mean it’s hard to make friends when you don’t know anything about them. If all you can hear is your voice throughout your interactions, you don’t have a friend…you have a sounding board.
If you told your partner your deepest darkest secret and they didn’t listen…how would you feel?
Or what if you explicitly tell them that you were deathly allergic to shellfish Then they take you to an all-you-can-eat shrimp fest for your birthday…wouldn’t you be inclined to leave them? Or perhaps watching all those true crime documentaries would have you wondering if they might be plotting your murder?
Listening skills are crucial for work. For instance, if all a teacher did was preach and lecture, how would they know their students are learning? If you didn’t listen to a client’s specifications and needs, how well would your business be?
Do you know what can ruin your day? When the waitress doesn’t listen to your order and adds a prawn chowder to your meal.
I’m a great listener
I’m pretty good at listening.
Growing up as the youngest of three, I’d often stay out of sight amongst the chaos and mess. From friendship problems, gossip, school pressures and dating to boys, I’d take in every gory detail that spewed out of my sisters’ mouths.
My parents would yammer on and on about family drama and I would be sitting in my corner, quietly listening, observing and dissecting everyone’s expressions, reactions and words.
I did well at school….because I listened. I knew what the homework assignment was about, what the deadlines were, what the exams were going to be on and what the teacher was looking for. I knew the rules. I knew what the consequences were for breaking them. Because they told me. And I listened.
As an introvert, I recharge from spending time alone. But when I’m around other people, I put a lot of effort into making the most out of the interaction. I know my energy levels will eventually wear down so I really focus and pay attention to the conversation. I want to make each interaction worth my time. It’s quality over quantity for us introverts.
My lack of social time has been magnified since becoming a parent. Every adult interaction without one of my children present is meaningful. I absorb every bit of information and process it like a sponge.
And when my kids are around, I also listen because I want to lead by example. If I want my kids to develop this life skill, I have to demonstrate it myself. If they’re having trouble at school, planning to destroy their room, feeling sick or anything, I need and want to know. If I want my kids to listen to me, I have to listen to them as well. It’s a two-way street when building trust with my kids.
When my husband goes on and on about his card collection or the special abilities of druids, necromancers, monks and clerics…I pick up some of the details despite having zero interest in sports or fantasy (or fantasy sports). Because they are important to him and knowing some of these things helped me understand him better.
One of my values is to be as open-minded as possible. Therefore, I like to take information in…lots of it…as much as my brain can muster…before making any judgements. And even when I’ve made a judgement, I’m open to being wrong if new information is presented to me. So I listen to gather data. Listen, listen, listen…and more listening.
But the problem is I’m tired of people who don’t listen
Listening is my default mode. I value close relationships. I value doing a good job at work. I value learning new ideas. I value having my views challenged. And I know listening is the key to living my life according to my values.
But what I’m tired of is people who don’t listen. I can hear you but can you hear me?
The ignorant ones
Those who are unaware of how bad they are at listening are merely ignorant. It’s easier for me to tolerate this group because they don’t know they have a problem. No one has ever told them they suck at it. So they carry on their day with their ears closed and mouths open.
Yap, yap, yap…spewing ignorant opinions left, right and centre. Sadly, these are the happiest bunch of fools I’ve ever met. What they don’t know can’t hurt them, right?
The arrogant ones
Then there’s the group of people who have been told they are horrible listeners but are fearful of self-reflecting and facing the truth. They are delusional about their skills. They believe they are great listeners and convince themselves there is nothing wrong with them. Those are the arrogant ones.
They jump to the wrong conclusions, make assumptions about people and never ask questions to clarify or to further their understanding. They hear the first few words and make up the rest of the story in their heads.
The selfish ones
The group I’m most frustrated with are those who are completely aware that they suck at listening but don’t have the desire to improve their skills. They accept it. They don’t care. They are complacent. They don't want to try to do better. They put themselves on a pedestal.
They believe others should listen to them and not the other way around. They talk over people. They interrupt incessantly. They don’t let anyone finish their sentences. They believe they are entitled to the last word. They criticize and value their own opinion above anyone else.
“With great power comes great responsibility”…or is it a burden?
And there are more of these non-listeners in the world than there are listeners. If you’re reading this and got to this part of my rambling, you’re probably part of the latter.
Some days, I want to join the non-listeners group. I don’t care which group. Cover one of my ears and half-listen to what others say. Only hear every other word and forget the rest.
My brain is overwhelmed from listening. I’m tired of taking people’s words, interpreting their meaning and trying to understand who and why they are the way they are. I’m exhausted from empathizing, putting myself in other people’s situations, and seeing the world from their perspectives. I’m sick of remembering information about people, what they said and how they said it.
At what point does listening well start to lose its utility?
Sometimes…I wish I sucked at listening. Maybe aging will be a blessing in disguise. When my hair greys, my skin sags and my hearing goes…maybe it will be bliss?
Nah…I doubt it. I will still be listening.
So Readers, are you a good listener? Do you ever feel burdened by your superpower?
Need help processing emotions and writing down your thoughts? Check out my 60 Feelings to Feel: A Journal To Identify Your Emotions
About the Creator
Sum (心, ♡) on Sleeve | Author. Speaker. Wife. Mom of 2 | Embrace Culture. Love Yourself. Improve Relationships | Empowering you to talk about your feelings despite growing up in a culture that hid them | sumonsleeve.com/books