Behind the Words : Listen for meaning, not to respond

Behind the Words : Listen for meaning, not to respond

It's been my absolute privilege to create a brand that allows me to share my original words & host a community that lovingly connects with them. So thank you for being a part of the blackline community and for speaking back into my world through your emails, comments and messages!
Whilst I release all my quotes into the world with the hope that they meet & inspire you in whatever space and circumstance you find yourself, this series will unpack what my own rationale & inspiration was behind my words.

"Listen for meaning, not to respond" - the blackline

I am going to admit something terribly embarrassing.

I used to get so nervous about conversing with strangers that I'd rehearse conversations in the car on my way to events and phone calls before I dialled the number. It proved particularly off-putting when the person didn't follow my script or responded with a completely left-wing comment. I would be left wondering what they'd said (I'd melt into inner panic mode and cease listening!!) and where I was supposed to take the conversation. I'd bought into the misguided idea that being an adult meant being polished; being informed, articulate and interesting.

All of the above are great attributes, but the more I've aged, I've realised "adulting" is a falsehood and the greatest achievement is learning to listen. Listening will make you greater at all of the above. And listening - in it's truest form - isn't something we practice enough these days.  

We have one mouth, and two ears. Let's use them proportionately.

This is by no means revolutionary, but a really practical way to listen better is to stop talking.

Stop talking to yourself internally whilst a conversation is going on.

This might be the hardest of habits to introduce but meditation and building time into your schedule to be still will help. Conversations don't require you to respond immediately. You don't need to have an opinion to add. Your sole job is to listen. So mute your mind chatter and engage with what is being said. You might not agree but you can learn a lot from how they're conversing, what they're saying and their body language. Give people your full attention, not just the appearance of it. 

Stop talking over the top of people.

I'm guilty of doing this. I get so excited about what's being said that I want to contribute immediately. I either jump in or I start formulating responses in my head.

Don't be me.

Talking over the top of people isn't always motivated by argument or contradictory opinion. It can just as easily be a result of being excited or engaged with what is being said. But it's never productive - the conversation doesn't build and the speaker doesn't feel heard. 

It's like a games show contestant who is so eager to push the buzzer, they only get half of the question and have to guess what was being asked of them, only to lose the prize money because they had to guess at random. No one wants to gain 22 seconds of a conversation at the cost of half a million dollars.

Stop to pause, process and consider before you respond.

So you've pushed the mute button on your mind chatter, you're actively listening to what is being said and it's now time to contribute. Don't feel you have to respond immediately. A conversation is not like tennis; you aren't required to whack the ball back over the fence once the ball has been served your way. Acknowledging a point is always a good idea because it allows you to show appreciation for their point of view. But you don't have to immediately reciprocate with something that will add to the conversation. Some of the best conversations are considered, drawn out and stilted; not seamless and constantly flowing. Acknowledging that you'd like time to consider what your stance is on the thoughts they've presented allows you to continue listening beyond the conversation ending; to mull over their words, look for deeper meaning or weigh their ideas against your own.

We can converse well with anyone

Once you learn to listen, you can have an engaging and informative conversation with anyone. Conversations will no longer be dismissed on the basis of "their stupidity, their lame ideas or their ignorance." You'll recognise that you're not in a conversation to be bolstered up, validated, understood or flattered. You're entering dialogue to listen; and in turn become more empathetic, understanding, with a broadened mind. You might not necessarily agree with what is being said but their ideas will no doubt inform your mind on what motivates others and give you the opportunity to reconsider your own thoughts and motivations.

This is how listening makes you more informed, articulate and interesting. It allows you to add colour to a conversation as you begin to see issues from many perspectives rather than solely from your own. It will have others wanting you to talk more rather than less.

The greatest listeners are the most interesting people in the room.



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