Yes, I’ll admit it…I’m a terrible listener. I have the best of intentions of hanging on every word that is said but, usually, I drift. But, it’s not my fault! I have these crazy monkeys jumping around in my head at all times! One causes me to babble, another one causes distractions and the host of others just jump around and fling poo on each other! Okay, there are no monkeys…but sometimes it feels like there are! However, knowing that I am a poor listener is the first step in my becoming a better listener.
In today’s world, I don’t think I’m alone. I would venture to say that we all struggle at one point or another in our ability to listen. Listening is a distinct asset and a skill that can be continually honed. Do you struggle with the monkeys? Do they keep you from listening too? If so, try these 4 strategies that will help you listen mo’ better!
LISTENING STRATEGY NUMBER ONE: SHUT UP!
REALLY!? The first step in being a better listener is to shut up? YOU BETCHA!! There’s no way you can hear another person if you’re yammering about something or thinking about yammering about something. If you want to say something….DON’T! If you are thinking about saying something…DON’T! ZIP IT and concentrate on the person that is speaking. Your turn to speak will come soon enough.
LISTENING STRATEGY NUMBER TWO: PAY ATTENTION
What is being said is not nearly as important as how it is being said. If you aren’t paying attention, you’ll miss 80% of the content! Listen for feelings, voice inflection, and watch body language. I can’t tell you how many things I misinterpreted when I wasn’t fully paying attention. I once ended up as the only straight man in a gay bar because I wasn’t fully paying attention to what was being said (on the plus side, I drank free that night). Make and keep eye contact when possible and stay in the moment.
LISTENING STRATEGY NUMBER THREE: KILL THE MONKEY
Monkeys in my brain cause distractions. You want to kill the monkey? Get rid of the distractions! He’ll die of boredom and won’t cause you any more grief. The biggest distraction for me is this computer I am typing on right now! Quite frankly, my children capitalize on this and will purposely ask me for expensive trappings while I am on my computer. It has cost me a fortune in agreed to items that I remember nothing about because the monkey hadn’t been properly euthanized. You know what YOUR monkeys are…kill THEM!!
LISTENING STRATEGY NUMBER FOUR: REPEAT IT
You’ve accomplished the first three strategies and think you know what’s been said…now repeat it back to the person that was speaking. You don’t have to do it verbatim (actually, I’d paraphrase it…repeating back verbatim is a little bit creepy). If you’ve gotten something wrong, they’ll let you know. If not, you’ve tried your best to get the gist of the conversation and/or issue down to the best of your ability. BRAVO!
Like I said, I struggle with listening all of the time. I can blame it on monkeys, computers, children, or the fact that I grew up as part of the Sesame Street generation and I’m used to everything being spoon fed to me at an elementary level. Whatever the cause, I can continue to work on listening mo’ better every day. With time and perseverance, I might just get good at it someday (and perhaps you will too)!