Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The art of listening.

Listening is something everyone thinks they know how to do, but most people don't have a clue.

I've noticed people do one of a couple different things when they talk:

  1. They talk to themselves at other people...meaning, they spout out some vaguely on-topic anecdote that is really only designed to posture themselves as not fitting their own insecurities.
  2. They just talk about themselves because there are ears around, regardless of whether anyone else in the room might actually have something important to share
  3. Get something off their chest, invited or uninvited
  4. Interrupt people to be funny/loud/share a good idea first
  5. Ask questions, invite discussion, clarify the thoughts of other people, respond to other people, progress the discussion
That 5th point is, I think, what is very, very rare in conversation these days.

I have found that I enjoy and participate in group discussions less and less these days. I think it is simply because I am more aware of how much of those first four are really done, due to my training and experience in counseling. It's aggravating, and I wish to go back to the time when I was blissfully unaware of how much of what people say is only posturing, ego fluffing, and just plain rude.

I suppose some may believe it would be a lot better use of my time to point out to people what's going wrong, but I don't think so. I don't think it would do any good at all. It'd be like trying to kill a hive of bees with a flyswatter. Sure, I might get some people to change, but the sting of making people uncomfortable about a behavior they probably aren't even equipped anymore to change, and then watching them shrink away from making conversation with me because of it would be worse. That alone isn't enough for me to decide not to say anything, but it's knowing I wouldn't even get the whole hive that puts the lid on the coffin. Our culture is the queen bee. We don't teach communication skills as a culture, and we don't learn them. We just get worse. Except me. Except a few other people I've met in life. That's it.

So, when I get frustrated with it all, I stop having anything to say. And when I don't have anything to say, I don't talk. That sets me apart from others. Makes me weird. I'm OK with it.

There was a dream that I dreamed, a dream for good communication.

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