By: Zara Maqbool
Do you really listen or just hear? I just heard for a long time till I started training as a counselor and I realized how different listening was from just hearing and what an impact it has on our interpersonal skills. Many times I hear people saying to the other in an argument, “Will you please listen to me?” In a way it is a plea of frustration of being unheard and not understood and this mode of communication becomes a permanent pattern of communicating in relationships.
Hearing is something that comes natural to us and is sensory in nature, an effortless activity with no thought or intention behind it. Listening on the other hand is done as a choice; a mindful choice of paying attention.
Many of us don’t even realize how learning the basic skill of listening to the other person can make us more relatable and connected to others.
There are quite a few ways that people impair their listening abilities. My intention of highlighting these blocks is just to bring it to our awareness and not start judging others and us on it.
My friend Natasha confesses that for years her husband has been complaining that she doesn’t listen to him. Mind reading is what she had been indulging in, that blocked their communication. “I always assume what he feels and thinks without asking,” says Natasha. Many of us are guilty of this where we don’t ask but simply assume.
Another thing is that instead of listening to the other person we are rehearsing in our mind what wewant to say next and so we miss out on what the other person is saying. I believe this stems from a need for bring right and so we resist any communication that can suggest or hint that we can be wrong too or need to change. So we are too busy planning our responses and missing out on what is said. Thus the response is way off the mark too.
I have been guilty of daydreaming while in conversation with some people. In my defense the conversation should ideally have put me to sleep but at least I mustered up all my energy in keeping my eyes wide-awake. Joke aside many of us start daydreaming during conversations and it can be very insulting for the other person. We also tend to filter information in certain conversations where we only listen to things that are important to us and ignoring the rest. Ahmed insists that his wife doesn’t listen to a word he says when he talks about work and only gets her attention when he uses magical words like “Bonus” or “foreign trip”.
Listening to the other person should not include judgment where we are busy evaluating the other person and what they say rather than trying to understand how they feel. Similarly advising after a conversation indicates the lack of emphatic listening that the other person is expecting from you. At times people just need to vent out and are not looking for a rescuer. This at times leads to fights especially between couples because one partner feels invalidated and unheard. Neither arguing for the sake of it nor placating is desirable in conversations. Agreeing too quickly also discounts what the other person is saying and shows that you really don’t care.
Many of us are also guilty of derailing where we immediately try to change a topic that might be uncomfortable for us to talk about. Women for example might not enjoy conversations about age and so on.
At the end of the day let’s try to listen in a way that others love to speak to us and listen to understand and just not reply!
Story first published: 14th January 2017