We all know a bad listener when we interact with one – they may be looking at you and responding to what you are saying; however, you know their mind is elsewhere. Or what about the person (or persons – there seem to be a lot of people in my life that do this as well) that are very engaged in what you are saying, so much so that they keep trying to finish your sentences as you speak? Unfortunately, at least in my experience, they are often finishing your sentences with words that are in a completely different direction than you intended to go. Even though the person is fully engaged with you (or appears to be), they are still exhibiting poor listening skills. They are not listening and responding to what you have to say, rather they are attempting to constantly jump ahead and figure out what you are trying or going to say. A couple of people that I spend a lot of time with really need to work on this particular skill and I found myself getting very frustrated with them, until I started paying attention to my listening skills.
See folks, we are quick to notice bad habits in others – not so quick to notice them in ourselves. I got fed up the other day after the 10th time my sentence was finished for me in a conversation. I decided that I would exaggerate my superb active listening skills to role model how respectful a good listener can be to the other person. Come on – I teach this stuff and had been working on my skills for the past five years or so. Lo and behold I found myself finishing their sentences a couple of times! This was a huge learning moment for me and one I hope you will take away as well.
First, I don’t need to go into just how important it is to be a good listener. Being a good listener puts you higher on the scale of emotional intelligence and the higher on the scale you are, the more successful you will be in your professional and personal life. So we won’t dive into that because you already know this. Next learning point – once you really start working on your active listening skills, you need to continue to work on them. They are not something that you learn and then that is that – you need to stay constantly vigilant to ensure you aren’t slipping back in to old habits or picking up new ones from those around you. And the final lesson from this reflection is to have some compassion for those around you. Sure they may have a few annoying habits that you can respectfully give them feedback on; however, remember that you have some pretty annoying habits too that they accept in order to be in your life as well.
For today’s homework assignment, do some quality self-reflection. First, focus on how well you are listening to others in your life and then widen your examination to include how accepting of other’s bad habits you are and perhaps becoming more aware of your own.