Friday, January 16, 2009

Stop, Collaborate and Listen

For the last few months I've been trying to become a better listener. A friend of mine (who is my inspiration for lots of things lately, holla Ali!) told me that she did this a few years ago, consciously, and I've been trying since she told me.

It turns out that listening is harder than it sounds.

When someone tells me a story, I have a tendency to want to share a similar experience. I've always thought of this as a form of commiseration, almost like I'm giving the other person *permission* to feel however he or she feels. I considered it a way to let him or her know that it's OK to have experienced that, because I have too! Like, I felt the same way once, so it's totally cool that you do - let me tell you about it!

In most cases, however, I interrupt you to tell my own story. And I've realized that when I do that, you don't usually finish your story, and the conversation derails (thanks in part to my compulsion to add at least 50% unnecessary backstory/detail to any story I tell). Not much permission there, and not much listening going on either.

So, I'm working on that. If you notice me interrupting you, let me know - I promise I'll try to listen.


Michael Gorsuch said...

Hmmm..... this is something I'm sure that *I* could benefit from (and have secretly been trying to do much better at for the past three weeks), but I don't recall a situation where I noticed this in you.

In fact, I was thinking a ways back (when I decided that I should listen better), and actually picked you as the person to try and emulate. So there you go.

One can always work to improve, but please make sure that you don't have the wrong idea about yourself.

Brianna said...

oh man, i do this too -- i get so excited about sharing my story that i run over other people. thanks for reminding me about listening.

Eric said...

I second Michael - I always found you to be a good listener when I needed somebody to talk to, and would often wander into your office for that exact purpose.

That being said, active listening is hard. I find myself drifting off and tuning out, or wanting to interrupt, all the time. No easy way to get better at it other than to pay attention to one's own behavior, I think.

~ali said...

It took me many, many months for this to become second nature for me...and bear in mind that this was 20 years ago so I've had lots of time to hone my listening skills. Keep going, baby! And thanks for the props :)

the other other gillian said...

Hello, twin. It seems it's another thing we have in common.

I wonder if I'm a jerk when I do that but if I ask people about it they don't complain. Maybe you're not as bad as you think? Better to interject once in a while than to doze off.

lil G said...

In the compliments department: Ali is also wickedly good at question asking (the twin sister of listening).

A nice reminder. Thanks ladies.