Before emails, TV’s, radio, telegrams and the printing press, human beings communicated face-to-face. They sat around the camp fire or on their front porch and listened to each other. Storytellers were revered for their ability to remember vast details of family history and epic events, while people intently listened so they could pass information on to future generations.
Communication today is primarily with our fingers, sending short texts or rapid-fire emails. While there’s much good that has come from the world of instant information, we are ruining our ability to listen to one another.
Texting or emails lose the social connection and ability to hear or feel another person’s voice inflexion, emotional tones or what they’re not saying. Listening with a deep resonance is almost impossible in this form of communication.
Instead, preparing to speak and push one’s own point of view has become the norm. Posting a Facebook comment or uploading a “selfie” photo are one-way communications. It’s no surprise that today’s form of communication has eroded our ability to listen deeply to others—-especially those with a different point of view.
Leaders are starting to realize they prepare themselves to speak, but rarely prepare themselves to listen. Without preparing to listen, we are destined to be in a perpetual Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™ cycle as Victim, Persecutor, and/or Rescuer with one another.
If we are unconscious to the reason we are speaking more than listening, we can easily go reactive to the moment and blurt out the first words that come to mind. This is a perfect set-up for Persecuting others or overly intervening when it’s none of your business (the Rescuer).
This trait is obvious in the current US Presidential nominating process. It’s not just the candidates who are speaking first and listening second (if ever). Their enthusiastic followers are exhibiting the same trait.
The first step to reversing this trend is to understand we are a relational species and function best when we have deep connections with other human beings. If we don’t listen to one another—or we actually don’t know how to listen—-our relational connection will be lost.
If you spend more time preparing to speak than to listen, here are a few tips to help you prepare to listen:
- Recognize how you are listening now. Most people are not conscious of how they listen or don’t listen. Simply observe your style of listening.
- Become aware of your thoughts as you listen. A rush of memories about that person or the situation may surface. They are all from the past and taint your ability to listen in the present moment and create a new possibility—which is what deep listening creates.
- Prepare a question to ask that will help you better understand what the other person is saying and feeling.
- Notice your urge to want to speak. The challenge is to dampen your desire to speak and possibly redirect the conversation back to you.
The Creator in you wants to connect authentically with others and yourself. There is nothing more intimate and profound than being deeply listened to. Preparing yourself to listen, more than preparing yourself to speak, is the gift you can give yourself and others.