Does anyone listen any more? Has someone ever asked you about your day and you changed up your usual response? I always say “I'm awesome” or “I'm great. How about you?” But there have been times I've admitted, “I'm kinda having a rough day.” About half of the time, the other person responds like an automaton, “That's great.”
That's great? Really? It is great that you're not listening?
When doctors scribble on their notepads are they really listening to the patient? When teachers ask how a child is doing, are they really listening?
And when a child who always behaves well suddenly acts out – do we hear what their actions are saying?
People speak in all kinds of ways, however, I'm concerned that the fine art of conversation is no longer considered fine or to be cultivated as an art.
People are fascinating. They have incredible stories. But are we so eager to tell our own story that we never listen to theirs?
This past Wednesday, I was at state literary. I struck up a conversation with a parent and it turned out he was the uncle of one of my former students. The former student had won that particular event and their first cousin was competing from a different school. That was the coolest thing! Such a neat connection!
These kinds of connections happen when you speak to people. When you find out their story. When you're friendly.
But listening is more than that. I think most of us still have the ability to listen. However, I'm fully convinced that synchronized listening is rare. People listen when they want to listen and they want you to repeat it back to them when they're ready, even if you've said it multiple times.
Just try to get people to show up on time for an event. You'll have to text them, email them, call them, and then, if you see them and ask if they're coming, they'll often say they have forgotten. RVSP's are neglected. Sometimes text messages go unresponded to as well.
Yet, in today's world, I believe that those who listen to conversations give themselves a head start on excellence. Those who hear the first time can have the benefit of getting started before everyone else. Even better, if you listen and are organized, you can be trusted and move up in organizations rather quickly above the minions who need constant repetition and reminding.
Excellent listening remains the hallmark of an excellent person and, I would add, an engaging conversationalist as well.
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