Excuse me! I don’t mean to be rude, but I do believe many of us are committed to having positive and nurturing relationships in our work and personal lives. Do you find that you walk away from many a conversation thinking “Whoa, I talked way too much!”, find that you can’t really recall the specifics of what the other person said (probably 25%, the rest is all judgment), or you ended up in an unintended disagreement? If your answer is “yes!” to any of these, I suggest you try shutting up and listening.
Here’s a challenge: For a full day, just listen. No, I didn’t say, repeat back what the person said. No, I didn’t say, end the conversation with a “thank you, for sharing.” No, I didn’t say, smile knowingly. I did say, just listen. No, don’t be a cardboard. But I trust, that if you are listening you will respond accordingly and simply. No more. No less. At the end of the day, reflect on what came up for you.
Stop freaking out!
Let me give you a little heads up on what you may discover, since I’m doing the talking right now… Most of us are pretty bright and accomplished folks. When impassioned, we even imagine that we are persuasive negotiators. So, it’s pretty darn difficult to hear anyone make an incorrect statement and not feel the need to enlighten him or her. For us savvy folks with years of experience, how can we NOT share our knowledge with some wayward person? Or, if someone is clearly in pain, you must say something – anything to ease his or her distress.
I say to you that if you are truly about nurturing other people and taking the focus off of yourself, there is something profound and rewarding in allowing someone else to speak. Allow them to speak at length. Looking in their eyes, taking them in, judging very little, and just listening. Suppressing the desire to fix, address, correct, or soothe. I say judging very little, because I understand how difficult it is to not come away with some observation of what is in front of you. But try not to let your observations run rampant while someone is sharing. Check your thoughts and put them to the side. We are often forming our response, while someone is speaking.
Wow! Is it possible to say nothing? Just for a day?
A great article to check out is “Active Listening”