Are you listening?

Lately I’ve felt like lot of the things that come out of my mouth fall on deaf ears. Spending time with our 2 small kids, its really not a surprise that this happens but when it starts to spill over into my adult conversations, it definitely affects me more.

Communication is a two-way street, both parties have responsibilities. The person speaking should respect the time and brain space of the other party, making sure the forthcoming information is relevant and/or interesting, i.e. don’t waffle on about boring crap. Likewise, the recipient of the information should be attentive and engaged or at least honest about the fact that they’re not. This can make for a much more enjoyable exchange between parties.

In the world we live in, distractions are everywhere, and maintaining a conversation can be difficult. Active listening is a skill that, as a coach, we are trained in, but definitely not perfect in! Most people know the basics of good listening; eye contact, body language, don’t interrupt, but we can find ourselves not exhibiting these behaviors so there is always room for improvement. In day to day life, we can be guilty of bad listening behavior, distracted by a buzz on your phone, or your brain runs off on tangents of all the other things it’s processing instead of focusing on the present moment. So other than singing a song (Grace & Monty taught me this one) to remind yourself of being a good listener, here are some additional things that could help:

  • Meditation – yes, it keeps coming up in my posts but that is because it works. Calming your mind, and feeling centered helps to be more present and not have your brain chase every thought. It also trains that muscle for when you are off with the fairies thinking about something else to activate, realize you are not present and bring you back to the moment.  
  • Turn off notifications – phones, computers, all the things that beep and bling. Turn them off. And then move away from them if you need to have a real conversation. Sitting in front of your computer, or with your phone nearby, can be too tempting. All those messaging apps, emails, or social media posts can wait a minute so reduce the distractions.
  • Keep a good to-do list – One of my biggest distractions is my own brain. Mid-conversation I will remember something that I need to do or the fact that we have run out of TP and then I completely lose the train of the conversation. Then I fake it, I pretend like I have heard what was said only to realize later that I have no idea what was asked of me. Getting all that stuff out of your head into a to-do list means your brain doesn’t have to work overtime to remember it and you can focus more.
  • Slow down – Slowing down to truly listen can be difficult. In some situations, it’s easy. Like in a coaching conversation because you are in a particular engagement mode and it is what you are there to do, but when you are talking to another co-worker mid-task or in my case to Eliot when I am trying to remember all the gear Grace needs to take with her to Adventure Club, it can be hard. The temptation to just get back to the task overpowers the desire to listen. Slowing down to listen may actually help the end result for you both so should be a priority.

So give these a go. It will reduce frustration for you and whomever you’re talking to. Oh, and a word to the wise, if you are not listening well, at least try to be aware of the topic. This is so you don’t regurgitate it back to the person who originally told you 2 days previously with the fervor that it is new and interesting information. It can feel a little disrespectful (i.e. really piss them off).  

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