Listening Skills Can Be Spiritual
Talk is cheap - Not! If you think about it, speaking is an art form. How many of us are artists? How many of us are skilled listeners? It has been said that women have 10,000 words a day to use, and men, around 2,500! However, do we really use the ‘right’ words, speak clearly as to our intent, get our point across? And, if everything is open to interpretation, do we really hear the words the other person is saying?
Here is an example of exactly how we do not say what we are thinking and at the same time do not actively listen. While recently shopping at a local store, thanks to a telephone on speaker, I was privy to a lady’s ENTIRE conversation! The title of this conversation, ‘he said, she said’ (with highlights) – here goes: He said, ‘I’m over to the mechanic getting’ the oil changed. She said, ‘The mechanic over by Weiner House, the one that has those giant chili dogs with the slaw that I love? Will you pick one up for me and bring it home?’ He said, (with a definite lack of enthusiasm) ‘Yeah.’ She said, (after a moment of thought) ‘Okay, you know, get me a couple of dogs.’ He said, (dragged out in slow motion) ‘You sure?’ She said, (with major attitude) ‘Well, only if it don’t put you out too much.’ Pause in conversation…
Now, here is what was really going on in the mind of the woman: ‘I love those dogs and really want some. Why does he sound like it’s such a big deal for him to go get me a couple of little hot dogs? Do I ask that much of him? I cannot believe he’s giving me attitude. With all that I do for him. Well, I don’t want the dogs so bad that I’m going to deal with his #@^&. I’ll just tell him I don’t want the %^*# dogs even though I really do!’
Conversation continued: She said, ‘You know what, never mind.’ He said, ‘Will you make up your #%&* mind.’ She said, (now venomous) ‘Do what you want,’ and hung up phone. That ended the conversation. The whole thing took a few moments. If she had said even some of the things she was thinking would the conversation have turned out differently? What would have happened if she had asked first if he was busy or heading anywhere else? Perhaps he had other things on his mind and his abruptness had nothing to do with her request, although that is how she interpreted his mind-set. How different would things have been if he had approached the discussion without ‘attitude? ’The conversation in general held more than a bit of anger between the two parties; and it was a conversation about hot dogs, or was it?
In other words, there were some underlying issues not associated with the chat. Why do we have such a difficult time talking to one another? Why is expressing what we think and feel such a tricky act to perform? How different would the conversation have been if he had explained at the start, that he was not in a good frame of mind? And, why when we are exchanging words with another human being, do we take delivery of their every word and emotion as though we are a target?
Look to the quote above, and take a moment to read it again. One interpretation might be that there is a dialogue between two people that a third is disrupting. Another analysis could be that the interjection is in the mind of one of the parties. In addition to the words being spoken, there is a whole other conversation inserting itself in the brain of one of the participants.
How wonderful would it be if we could have open, honest and direct exchanges with the people in our lives? All we have to do is learn how to express ourselves without drama and become skilled at truly listening. Sounds simple - yes? How?
“I” messages are one way to change communication. They offer your opinion without the ‘pointing finger of blame.’ You might consider starting a sentence with the words, ‘I feel, or, I’m wondering if.’ When the person you are exchanging words with feels they are being attacked there is only one way the conversation will go – downhill. Another way to have a healthy conversation and practice listening skills, is to agree up front that you will each repeat in your own words that which you heard the other person say so each knows their point of view is understood. Allow for correction! This course takes a bit of extra time, but once established as a habit, prevents a multitude of problems. Remember to begin with an “I.” Create the time to figure out how you want to be perceived; compose your conversations ahead of time, so they will go in the direction you wish for them to go; plan and implement to accomplish this feat. As with all things, speaking and listening in a healthful manner is by choice. Make the one that is in your best interest and the rest will fall into place. Then practice, practice, practice!