Hi! How are you?
(Siiigggghhhhh)! Well let me tell you about what’s going on (going wrong) now.
OK, well I’ve got to go. Talk to you later.
Uhm (click) Ok, bye?
I’ve been thinking a lot about how we show up, or don’t show up, for one another. Specifically about the point of whether we actually listen to one another.
For years I have seen the words, “people don’t listen to hear, they listen to reply”. Well, that’s probably true. But I think that there is a lot of conversation time devoted to attention hungry people feeling the need to be heard. For example, take the conversation above. The person being called uses the opportunity to share the ups and downs of their day. Ok, mostly the downs. Then, before the person who called can really explain the reason for their call or has an opportunity to interact, the call ends. Finished. Done with a click. I have been on that side of the conversation more than a few times. It is frustrating! Particularly when I have a point that I want to make. After awhile, the caller no longer even tries to interject. Unless they have to. One sided conversations go nowhere.
So I wondered whether I do the same from the other side. Have I been the one who doesn’t let the other person get a word in and doesn’t listen? To be honest, I don’t know. But I’m sure I have a time or two.
I’m mostly guilty of the conversations that I never allow to get started or where I’m there but not really. It’s when someone pokes their head into my office when I’m in the middle of a project and when they ask, “Do you have a minute?” I respond, “Well, I’m in the middle of something.” “OK. Well, I’ll be quick.” And the more animated they are about what they are telling me, the more my face morphs into a death stare. What?! You really pulled me away for this? And I begin to think about the fact that I’m irritated instead of really listening. Not very effective on the communication front.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about an experience from high school. In response to the post, many friends, both high school and since, showed up on facebook to let me know how terrible they thought the event was and how awesome they thought that I was. Well, maybe not awesome. But they wanted me to know that I was OK.
While I appreciated all who showed up and spoke up but I wondered if they had read what I wrote. That yes, I used the event for context but that the moral of my story was that it no longer haunted me and I am OK. So this made me wonder if we are also so uncomfortable with others’ truth, that we don’t really want to hear them and instead, we just want to make them feel better. I didn’t really hear you but I know you’re in pain, so let me just see if I can stop that. That way I won’t have to hear you any more. (again, I did appreciate everyone’s sentiments)
Another way that we don’t listen is in our awkward attempt to build connection. I think that this is mostly unconscious and actually meant to reach out but….it doesn’t work. Here’s the pattern. I had a really bad start to my day. I was on my way out of my neighborhood and my tire went flat. I was so frus…… Well, I know just how you feel. I had that happen to me once. Let me tell you! xxxxx
I can most certainly tell you that I have been guilty of that type of conversation ender. In a terrible attempt to show empathy and let the other person know I understood, I failed at listening to how they felt. Bad communication skills! I’m working on it.
When someone talks to you, are you home for them? Are we so busy or annoyed or awkward that we no longer know how to show up for one another? I think showing up means that we not only talk, but we listen. And you know that someone is truly part of your tribe when the listening, and the talking, go both ways.
In Jerry Maguire, Dorothy says to Jerry… “You had me at hello!” Well, I think you really have to do a little more than hello. You have to say, “Hello. How are you?” And then actually listen!
….sit down for a cup of coffee and tell me about your day!