Have you ever had one of those conversations where you know the other person is not listening to what you are actually saying? It makes me think of the “discussions” I had with my parents when I was trying to convince them my plan was a good one. The whole while they are talking I’m thinking about another angle to my argument, another way I can state my case. For all I know they were agreeing with me. I have no idea because I’m completely engrossed in my argument and how to best present it.
I’m much better at listening in a passionate conversation than when I was a teenager. But I still have plenty of room to grow. I’m more likely to catch myself now than I was then. My hope is someday I don’t have to catch myself. That listening to rebut is a thing of the past for me. It’s good to have goals right?
Being passionate about an event, a topic or an issue is a good thing! We need people who are passionate and willing to put themselves out there. It’s how almost all change happens. Passion is good. There has been an abundance of passion this past week alone. People are excited and scared, anxious and fearful, hopeful and relieved. It is all over the board with such intensity and emotion.
Listening is also good. Actually focusing on what someone is saying; their words their body language and their heart. (As an aside, remember, we aren’t all perfectly eloquent and certainly not all the time. Some times things come out all wrong. We phrase things in a way that can be interpreted differently. Considering the heart of the speaker helps avoid focusing on one phrase; getting stuck on semantics of a sentence.) Try really listening to understand what they are expressing. Hear what they are saying, not the clichés, not what you think they will say based on how you have categorized them, but what they are really sharing.
Stephen Covey’s 5th habit of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is seek first to understand, then to be understood. It makes sense. If you want to connect with someone, you need to understand where they’re coming from. What motivates them, what drives their passion, how did they come to the view they have? All important details in really connecting. You can assume all day or you can really try to understand. You may find you can actually relate to and empathize with how they landed where they did.
There are some great resources out there about active listening. You can find tools and tips to help you focus. In fact the Department of State website is a good place to start.
This week’s assignment: Focus on understanding the person who disagrees with you. Spend time in conversation, real conversation, with someone with whom you disagree. Listen to their words, their body language, their heart. Remember they may not be the most eloquent. Try really listening to understand what they are expressing.
From last week: There were certainly plenty of opportunities over the past week to look at how we categorize people. From political party to marches and even some football! How many times did you categorize someone else and make assumptions about them? Be honest. Did you catch yourself at all? It’s hard when you feel very passionate. We are all a work in progress. I’ve read a lot of comments on a lot of posts. Many of them are truly awful. Things people would never (or certainly should never) say to each other. On the other hand, there are a few of my friends who are very skilled at discussing issues without attacking individuals. I am learning from them.