Having the Time to Listen Is the Real Treasure in These Difficult Days.
Listening, genuinely listening to someone is a difficult skill. Our olden-day world (IE: 4 weeks ago!) was perfectly constructed to ensure we never really had to listen to anybody. From the time we woke until we slept, we packed our lives with “stuff to do,” and when all the running around had exhausted us, we dived into our screens and inserted our earbuds. We didn’t have time for this silly listening nonsense. Good gracious, couldn’t you see, we were busy? We had errands and meetings and lunches and appointments and workouts and shopping and Netflix and…well, we were just so busy busy busy.
Then abruptly, Mother Nature put us all in a time-out, and our busy, no-time-to-listen worlds ground to a halt. But, now, we’re discovering that we value—even seek out—opportunities to connect and listen. As the fragility of life looms large, human connections become lifelines. Friends have shared how now they have the time for conversations they never had time for before.
My two adult children, both living and working independently in different states, chose to spend The Great Time of Hunkering Down here with us. (Lucky for us, they interpreted the word “home” in the order: you must work from home, as the home of their childhood.) It wasn’t strange having them back. Over the years, through high school, college, and working lives, we have always chosen to spend time together. Still, over the years, as they formed independent lives, these occasions centered around a celebration, an event, or our annual overseas vacations. This meant those times together were focused on the place we were traveling or when at home, involved lots of rushing around sprinkled in with activities; cooking, wrapping gifts, board games, visiting old friends, you name it. There was always the next thing and the next thing to do.
Now, while we #StayHome, we haven’t gathered to celebrate or travel, we are together under orders, and we wait, we work, and we talk—and what a privilege it is. To be given this gift of time to connect with loved ones, to just sit in the moment, to slow your breath and hear what they are saying, is the real treasure in these difficult days.
But do we still know how to listen? Maybe this is the time to brush up on this skill? Before you sigh or roll your eyes, let me reassure you, I am not suggesting yet another complex skill for you to master. (Yes, we have all seen the social media posts from those energizer bunnies who start watercolor classes, enroll in underwater basket-weaving and produce a perfect souffle, all while practicing yoga poses.) No, you can work on this skill while in fuzzy slippers with a mug of coffee or a glass wine in hand.
How to be a great listener:
- Be open to being the listener and prepare yourself to listen.
- Actively switch to the listener role.
- Look at the person speaking. Look in their eyes.
- Focus on their words with an open mind. Try not to filter their words through your lens.
- Don’t start forming your response while they are still talking.
- Let go of the urge to judge, criticize, or defend.
- Don’t finish their sentences.
- Unless something catches on fire, don’t ever interrupt.
- Keep listening until they stop speaking, then count to 3 before replying.
We have never had a better time to practice active listening, so whatever version of lockdown you are living, why not take this time to really listen to those around you? Whether in person or on a screen, listen to others as you would like them to listen to you.