In a world constantly buzzing with social interaction, proper communication is essential in daily life. We communicate everyday – whether it be through face-to-face interaction, social media messages, body language, you name it. We are a very social civilization.
However, one aspect of this so-called communication has always plagued me: the act of listening is slowly dying.
When someone is talking, the other person is just waiting for them to finish speaking so they can blurt out their own thoughts and opinions on the matter.
As American author Stephen Covey once said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
Often, when someone is talking about their problems, others are so quick to jump in with their struggles instead of empathizing with that person. It becomes a competition of who has had the worse day. Talking over someone or not truly acknowledging their feelings can make the person feel invalidated.
In addition, sometimes the best thing you can do to help someone when they have a problem is not give them advice. People often just want someone to listen to them.
I find that there is true beauty and value in processing what other people say, letting them speak without interruption and then replying with something meaningful.
We all want to be heard, but how often are we the ones truly listening?
I have always been a listener. Strangers will tell me their entire life stories like I am their close friend. People who have just met me will spill out their deepest secrets to me that same day. Friends and family alike have deemed me as a therapist. Sometimes I feel like a walking diary of everyone’s secrets.
However, I am guilty of not giving people my undivided attention. We all fall victim to having our attention wander, getting distracted by a notification from our phones or interrupting someone to share our own thoughts.
Think of the great listeners in your life. I know it makes such a big difference to me when the person I’m talking to is fully present in the conversation. They are fully engaged, making eye contact and leaning in towards me. They ask the right questions to further the conversation and inquire more about the topic. To be on the receiving end of a listener means that the speaker feels heard, validated, comfortable and important.
Listening is pure, open, deep, honest and raw. It’s a tool that can open doors to becoming a better professional, communicator and friend. In a society that talks so much, it is a much-needed quality that many people lack.
In the fast-paced world we live in, sometimes we need to stop, let the other person talk and, as the Vine goes, “Linda, honey, listen!”
Kristel is a junior nursing major from Edison, New Jersey. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.