The Lost Art of Listening

Everyone loves to talk. Everyone loves themselves. If you put two and two together, then you’d probably guess that everyone loves to talk about themselves. We are a society of egos and pride; we want everyone to know everything awesome in our lives. It’s a constant showmanship on a subconscious and conscious level, and we can’t stop.

Over and over again, we bombard each other on social media and in person with no shortage of “try-topping-this” moments. We love to ask someone how they’re doing, mainly in an effort to talk about how awesome we’re doing. This is how we function.

Communication in its most basic form involves talking and listening. So imagine for a minute if all you could hear was your own voice when you spoke, but couldn’t listen to anyone else or anything? Chances are none of us would get any shit done. Why? Because unless someone speaks and someone listens, there’s no communication. In other words, we got to where we are because of both talking and listening.

We have plenty of books out there on how to become a better effective speaker, but where are the books on being an effective listener?

The problem is that we all think we’re better listeners than we actually are.

In fact, studies have shown that we think we are just as good if not better at listening than almost all of our coworkers. And better yet, we all agree that effective listening is an important skill, but we also don’t have a strong desire to improve our own.

If you caught one thing from that, it’s this: listening is a skill and we’re terrible at it.

No One Really Gives a Fuck, So You Should Try To

One piece of advice that I find has served me well in life stems from people’s inability to get out of their own head. It’s quite simple: no one really cares about you, they only care about themselves. People’s brains are going way too fast for their own good. And because of this, if you can actually master the art of giving a fuck on a level that registers even a shred above zero, you’re giving yourself a huge advantage in life.

The thing is, no one’s really taking stock of every little thing you’ve fucked up on. They’re so busy in their own heads with their own cooked up storylines, any sort of failure on your end that does come up will likely be out of their head before next week’s episode of The Bachelor. So if you know this to be true, and people really didn’t give a flying fuck, then why should you? You’re probably left wondering what kind of treasures and promises lie in the holy-land of giving-a-fucks.

Unfortunately for you, there isn’t much once you cross the bridge into giving-a-fuck territory. But what I can tell you with certainty is that should you cross that threshold, you’ll begin to understand human psychology in a way that most can’t: everyone just wants to be heard and more importantly, understood.

Ok Enough About The Fucks Given, Where’s The Listening?

Remember, people are so consumed with their own shit that they inevitably refuse to listen to anyone else.

The art of listening, as it stands in today’s society, has diminished significantly.

people talking in restaurant
Chances are these people are itching to take their phones out.

We all have the innate desire to be heard. That’s why we post on social media, that’s why we socialize with friends, hang out with our family, and get into long-term relationships with significant others. Unfortunately, our inability to focus on other people even during a casual conversation leads to a very surface level and insincere camaraderie.

We love to “check out” in the middle of a conversation when the other person is speaking. Our mind is such a powerful machine, the gears grind so fast that we literally can’t focus on one thing for five minutes. Sounds like meditation gone wrong, right?

Now imagine if you were someone who wanted nothing more than to be heard as you explain a past experience in your life that holds great value or great hurt. Think of yourself as you go about unloading the details on someone. And then imagine the other party nodding their head, looking away, making it obvious they aren’t even registering half of what you are saying.

This is an all too common scenario. But based on the studies and research out there mentioned earlier, we think we’re just as good or better at listening than our peers.

So how can you expect to be heard when you aren’t really listening yourself?

Listening Is A Skill

If you want to be heard, realize you probably suck at listening and actually start listening to others.

Like anything in life, you get what you put in. You can’t expect to be heard if you aren’t doing the hearing yourself. We all love to make our opinions known, but fail to understand other people’s points of view. Don’t expect compassionate people to “get” you when you don’t give two shits on understanding the other side.

Listening is almost like another form of meditation. You have to be attentive but stay relaxed and you have to focus on the talking instead of focusing on your breath. Most importantly, you have to bring yourself to the present moment, or else you’ll begin trailing off in your own head.

If you do find yourself checking out and feel like you missed a part of what the other person said, make it a point to be sincere and stop them and ask if they can repeat what they just said. This act alone makes you come across as someone who is actually trying to listen. Trying beats not trying; it’s a step in the right direction and the other person will be appreciative you’re actually attentive enough to ask.

Then, make it a point to repeat parts they’ve said back to them during the conversation in the form of little statements or questions. That’s all it really takes. It’s not that fucking hard, we just make it so. And for Christ’s sake, put the phone away when engaged in a conversation.

You aren’t a lost cause, so fear not you deafened young millennial. It just takes a bit of self-awareness and a bit of patience. So if you find yourself having trouble getting people to listen, start with yourself, for the outside world is but a reflection of what’s going on inside you.

How's your focus and self-discipline?

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