Posted by: hagengreen | February 21, 2011

Learning to Listen

I came across an op-ed piece today by a Toledo (OH) Blade writer, republished by the Seattle Times. It’s a fresh reminder to us all that the simple things in life can make all the difference. Perhaps we too often think selfishly of ourselves, push our own agendas, and tell people what we think. When’s the last time you asked someone: “how are you doing?” and actually cared how they responded? I’ve noticed its a cultural norm in our society to ask the question in passing without pausing to fully soak up their answer. I’m just as guilty.

How about when talking with someone face to face. Are thoughts running through your head as they speak? Are you *actively* listening to what they have to say? Or do you mentally cut them short and start formulating a response while they’re still talking? Without fully absorbing what they’re saying, you’re missing out on the in-the-moment communication not to mention the potentially more powerful non-verbal queues.

Today’s generations have unlearned the skill of listening. We’ve de-evolved to a multi-tasking ADD/ADHD society. How did we get here? It must be technology and the speed of life in today’s here-and-right-now day and age. Look how far we’ve fallen compared to our ancestors. Talking to our grandparents is a lesson in something we’ve all long forgotten. Notice how they listen will all ears, are attentive, and have heartfelt responses that show they’re well grounded in your thoughts. They make it look easy. What happened to us?

We all strive to be better people in the game of life. Americans pay X number of millions of dollars a year on self-improvement seminars and books, trying to unlock the secrets of productivity and how to land that promotion at work. Does it really take hours on end and hundreds of pages to tell us what we already know? Do we disregard it because it’s too easy to believe? What if the big secret was as simple as being present and just listening? Let’s try it out, and circle back to see how it’s changed us for the better. Sometimes taking a small step back can propel us farther forward than we ever could have imagined.

And the best parts: no internet connection required, no charging batteries, and it’s 100% free. I’ll be sure to send you the bill shortly.


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