“Learning to Listen”

1948-50s 221

“Listen up!” Who hasn’t heard someone in authority say that to quiet a group? “Are you even listening?” That seems to be a common question between partners. “Haven’t you heard a thing I said?” Every parent seems to ask that of their kid at one time or another. Clearly we share a challenge when we are asked to listen to another. At the same time, we need others to listen to us. We are much less forgiving of another zoning out when we are talking than we are of own own daydreaming while another talks.

I have to repeatedly relearn the art of listening. Instinctively I seem to listen to another person while simultaneously preparing my response. If I am in agreement with the other, I often start answering before she finishes talking. If I disagree, I am thinking about my point of view instead of listening to his. I have always found it much easier to talk than to listen! In fact in school I was constantly reprimanded for what they called “unnecessary talking.” (As if anything I was saying was unnecessary.)

I find it easiest to listen when there is no need for me to respond. Audio books and I get along well. Similarly, I can take in a homily in church. I find that I also deeply listen to the weekly readings. But put me in a discussion group about the homily or the readings and my “talk first listen later if at all” personality pops up.

I wonder how anyone learns to listen. My family was a constant cacophony of six people trying to get their points across. That can’t have helped. Still, I sense that there is a discipline to truly listening. It seems to require patience, tolerance and openness to another person. I continually aim to show up in each conversation willing to really listen. Now if the other person would just put down their phone!

 

14 thoughts on ““Learning to Listen”

  1. My mother’s inability to listen is a constant reminder that I need to work on my own listening skills. Actually conversation with my mom that essentially sums up what I mean. This happened tonight.

    Me: Look at this idiot just strolling across the street at night in full black like he’s lumiscent.

    Mom: Mhm…and wearing full black too!

    😆

  2. Some people never learn to really listen. I fear I may be one of them.
    Partly it’s because, if it’s a problem, I want to help. But I would help more by listening – people often find their own solutions if you give them time to talk it through.
    Sometimes it’s because people take so long to get to the point! You want to get there for them and get it over with. But perhaps if I listened better to what they were telling I would become a better storyteller.
    And in an argument, of course, nobody listens because they’re too busy trying to force their opinion on the other side which struggles to do the same. Nobody’s listening because their mind’s already fixed

  3. I was an only child, and learned from an early age that I had to listen to adults. Whether friends of the family, aunts and uncles, my parents of course, or teachers, I always took second place in any conversation. It wasn’t quite ‘seen but not heard’, though it was close. 🙂
    These days, everyone is now expected to shut up and listen to the babblings of our 4 year-old grandson. That’s not progress, from where I sit.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  4. In the 1970s I learned something amazing: that listening skills could be learned! Wow! I wish I could say I instantly became a model listener (nope) but in extremis I dig deep and use them. Sometimes.

  5. Another well expressed article, Elizabeth. Now that you point this out, I do this too. I start preparing my response to another persons POV or comments before I finish listening to them. I think this is partly due to people not liking gaps in conversations and feeling they must talk the minute the other party finishes speaking instead of reflecting on their comments when they finish and then replying.

  6. I too do the same so many times 🙂 I realise what I am doing and try to listen with concentration. Learning to listen is so important. Some time ago a relative told us about their relative who had called so many of her family saying she wanted to talk to them. She even called her mother, But all of them said they were busy and they would definitely talk another day. That lady committed suicide. Now when someone asks me if I have time and they want to talk to me, even if I am busy I tell them I have all the time in the world.

  7. I too do the same so many times 🙂 I realise what I am doing and try to listen with concentration. Learning to listen is so important. Some time ago a relative told us about their relative who had called so many of her family saying she wanted to talk to them. She even called her mother, But all of them said they were busy and they would definitely talk another day. That lady committed suicide. Now when someone asks me if I have time and they want to talk to me, even if I am busy I tell them I have all the time in the world.

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