- On August 25, 2014
I recently went to dinner with two women I have known for many years. I came away overwhelmed with delicious food and underwhelmed with human connection.
As we took turns sharing what we were doing and planning, I alternately felt like I was in the Grand Inquisition answering dozens of detailed questions (which I felt diluted the point of my story) or on the receiving end of an advice columnist laying on the “should.” (”You should do this…” “You should that…”) All Level 1 listening. I felt unsatisfied. I can get Level 1 listening from anyone. I expect more emotional connection from my friends. I want to be heard!
To be fair, a busy restaurant and sporadic meetings…maybe I was expecting too much. Our days are punctuated with answers of 140 characters or less, succinct emails, calendar reminders, and the routine daily tasks that keep family and professional lives afloat. And we all have different styles for how we process information—the MBTI Sensing or Intuitive preferences. Have true listening skills become a casualty of our busy existence?
Here’s what I do know–Listening has little to do with you, the listener, and all to do with who you are listening to.
Listening is a gift. A gift where you put away your ego, your experiences, your judgment, and deeply hear where the other person is coming from. The words and also what’s behind the words. Is it Joy? Pain? Struggle? Frustration? Disappointment? A challenge overcome? Pride?
Acknowledging the unspoken emotion that is driving the words is how I need my friends to listen. That is when I will feel heard.
I left the dinner pleasantly entertained by the physical activities of our lives yet unsatisfied emotionally.
The up-side of the evening is that I became more acutely aware of how I myself am showing up for my friends. Since then, I have internally voiced an intention before every meeting–of colleagues, friends, and family–to give them the gift of my attention and really try to hear what they are saying–the words and the emotional underpinnings.
[Image from Shutterstock, copyright BlueOrange Studio.]