My friend, Bob Schmidt raised an interesting point this morning on his Facebook profile.
He said, “The art of conversation will be lost forever if we don’t insist on quieter surroundings, I hate conversations that are interrupted with a huh, or a what because of the ambient noise.”
Which got me to thinking about my own listening skills and if I’ve been applying them correctly.
I am pretty sure that I haven’t.
There have been several instances where my friend Amanda has come over and my television has been on, I’ve been only semi-listening to her because of the noise of the T.V. *sorry Amanda*.
When did I stop becoming an active listener?!
Obviously I hadn’t meant to not give her my full attention…I mean, what she was saying was important to me and interesting and yet I felt this strange compellment to keep listening to the T.V.
I wasn’t even all that interested in the show for God’s sake!
What kind of friend am I?
It’s the same way with music and me.
If there is a song on and I know it…I almost have to struggle to really listen and understand the people around me.
It’s not that I’m a bad friend.
I kind of blame it on my A.D.D….no, really, I do have it…not trying to quote a song here.
In my case this may explain some of it.
Over-all I believe we have become a society of bad listeners.
There are a lot of theories that attempt to rationalize why this is.
Perhaps part of it is that we’ve become a more visual society as a result of television and the internet (and all our new gadgets), and there is always the hypothesis that we have become a selfish society that is tuned in more with hearing ourselves talk than listening to others.
So, what does it exactly take to really be an active listener anyways?
Is it just shutting-off the television, radio, putting down the x-box controller and yes, even the cellphone?
I mean really, how many times have you been sitting with a friend and they’ve been busy looking at their cellphone while your trying to talk to them?
Did it make you feel very important to them at that moment?
I kind of rather hate that.
Once, I was at a family gathering and EVERYONE except my grandmother had their cellphones out and were checking them or texting.
It made me wonder why we all had gotten together anyways if we weren’t going to pay attention to each other anyhow.
Part of active listening, or so my theatre teacher (along with my former psych professor) taught me is that we learn as much from what people do as from what they say, and we learn as much from how people say things as much as from the words themselves.
Everyday we watch body language, we listen for nuances in conversations, we give context to the words we hear.
We look for hidden meaning (subtext) in the context of the message.
We are processing constantly the information we are receiving.
People are always analyzing even when they are not aware of it.
It makes sense.
When your girlfriend (targeting the guys here) says to you…”oh never mind, there is nothing wrong” and she has that tone..you know that she is pissed off and there IS something definitely wrong.
You have actively listened to the whole message being given.
Part of hearing and truly listening to a person can be accomplished by keeping your mind focused on that person by just looking at them and keeping eye contact.
Well, not so much if your television is showing a kick-ass chase seen, or whatever you’re into..for me that would be Warehouse 13! Or your checking your cellphone for the next text to come in.
Put away the cellphone, the ipod, the magazine (turn-off the T.V.)…in other words minimize distractions.
For some this is really hard to do with their cellphones.
Well, just imagine if you didn’t have it to begin with.
Give feedback in the conversation….nod, say something to show that you are listening to that person.
Ask them to go more in depth about what they are saying.
I get so annoyed when I am really trying to convey something to my housemate and he doesn’t say anything after I have told him something important.
I can’t tell if he’s heard anything of what I’ve been saying.
Listening is an art form that takes lots of practice!
In order to become a better friend, I think from now on I’m going to shut-off the television when my friend comes over…I am going to turn towards her and make that eye contact, I am going to engage myself in the conversation to show her she is important to me.
In other words, I am going to be a better friend.