looking at listening

As I type this post, the guys are here to cut my grass.  So there’s a lawnmower, weed eater and leaf blower all going at the same time.

My wonderdogs are barking at them.

Van Morrison singing via Pandora.

And NOW my inner critic is telling me that maybe this isn’t a good time to write a blog post.

Sometimes it’s tough for me to chose what to listen to amongst all this stuff I’m hearing.listeningear

We all know that hearing and listening are two very different experiences.   To me, hearing is almost an inactive verb.  Life is noisy.  Sounds happen.  As long our ears are in working order, we hear them.

Listening, on the other hand, is a very active verb.   It’s the conscious choice to filter, store and be affected by the noise.

I marvel in the presence of Uber Listeners.   I want to be more like them.

Here’s what I’ve noticed Uber Listeners have in common:

1.  They choose to listen. Whether they’re tuning in to a person, some great music, singing birds, the wind and even silence – their entire focus is toward what or whom they listening.

2.  Their responder seems to be turned off as they listen. So they are really listening rather that preparing their witty or wise reply.

3.  They don’t just listen with their ears. They let me know they’re listening with their whole selves.   They’re looking at me (rather than their IPhone or someone nearby who looks like they might be more interesting, etc).  They’re facing me with their body without invading my space.  While their mouth might move to smile, frown, laugh, etc with me – it is otherwise closed.

4.  They create a cone of listening. Remember the cone of silence from Get Smart days?   Well, Uber Listeners have a gift for creating a space that supports storytelling and storylistening.

5. They seem to be adept at listening to their inner coach more often than their inner critic (and yes, we all have both).   This one is tough to describe.  It’s just something ya know when you see.

6.  Extraneous noises don’t seem to bug them. They seem to be able to ignore ringing phones, buzzing cellphones,  barking dogs and even screaming schedules.

If you are an Uber Listener or know some, please let us know what else you’ve seen in their listening.

6 thoughts on “looking at listening

  1. I’m a pretty terrible listener. I’m always thinking about something or, when in a conversation, I’m responding to what the other person is saying in my head. This is clearly NOT good and it’s something I’m working on all the time. Listening, I believe, is a really important ability. It’s important at work, with friends, with a spouse, even with youself. This post was a great reminder for me to brush up on my listening skills!

  2. Lisa, you know how I am about people listening. Really listening. Not many people do it…like you do. My formula for years has been 60/40. I’m willing to have 60% of the conversation be “about them.” And I’m willing for just 40% of the conversation to be “about me.” To me, that’s only fair. But for 40% of the conversation to be about me, the other person needs to …at some point…ask some questions. Always amazes me how few people do that. So many folks are just fine occupying 80%+ of the conversation. The more extroverted a person is, the more words they can find to fill up a conversation. And when extroverts need to find words to fill a conversation, they (understandably) pick a topic they know the most about…themselves. So it’s very easy to find people who don’t listen…they just wait to talk. BIG difference there. But what a treat it is to find someone who truly listens. And who’s willing to share a conversation 50/50.

    Always interesting to see how people really need to be listened to. It’s so deeply ingrained in all of us. Also interesting to see how many people forget they need to share the same need with others. So we very often end up with people talking, and other people “waiting to talk” rather than listening.

    “To listen is an effort, and just to hear is no merit. A duck hears also.” Igor Stravinsky.

  3. I really enjoyed Tom’s reply. I was listening to him by way of my computer and was giving every bite of my attention to his explanation of a excellent description of the crowd around us in our everyday encounters.

  4. PP, thanks for your honesty and for the encouragement to keep trying.

    Tom, what a wonderful description of something i bet we all juggle. THANKS!

    AMEN and thanks, Roger!

  5. After reading your blog, I happened to be doing some research on ADD in adults, and one of the things that jumped out at me as a symptom was “Doesn’t listen: Do people (spouse, boss colleagues, friends) complain that you don’t seem to listen…?” I’m used to thinking about this aspect of ADD in my students, but now I’m thinking of it in terms of adults as well. Yes, sometimes it does seem that the non-listener is just is too full of things they want to say about themselves, but it could be for others that it is an organic condition. They’re not listening intently, because they just can’t! In which case we need to replace our disappointment or annoyance with COMPASSION! My mind also often seems to be jumping with things I want to share with the talker (mostly to let them know I’m empathetic, that we share something) but I know it might come off wrong, so I feel like I need to work on MY listening skills, too.

  6. ML, what a wonderful filter through which i’ll now witness less-than-Uber Listeners. deep and humble bows of THANKS.

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