LOVING listening

How _good_ are you at listening? Kind of a hard question to answer because well, who decides what makes a good listener?

Maybe I will try another slice of a similar question…has anyone ever told you that you are a good listener? Forget good. Has anyone ever called you a GREAT listener?

Still not sure? Well, the answer, if you are hesitating, is probably no. If no one has told you, then, well it is unlikely you are a great listener.

No one has ever told me.

Why am I thinking about this?

Well, I might ask you a related question (this is what happened to me, and this is what sparked me thinking about this topic): have you ever met someone who is a really great listener?

When I say “really great,” I mean EXCEPTIONAL. They stand out. You tell your other friends about how great of a listener said person is. You REMEMBER how you _felt_ because of the listener. It is about what they say—the content of the questions they ask—as much as it is (or perhaps less even) about the VIBE of the conversation.

The feeling you get when someone is ACTUALLY listening to is unique? in this day and age. Weird…but true? Like, how often are you in a conversation with someone where you can just TELL that they are not fully fully there.

I can answer this a bit cynically because it feels to me that in basically? all conversations I am in nowadays, I am competing for attention. Now, this is not fully accurate—with my close friends or in “intimate settings” (small groups at work) I can sense a stage of presence.

But that feeling is weirdly? rare.

I mean, perhaps it is not THAT weird because, after all, we have these CASINO THINGYS IN OUR POCKETS THAT are quite distracting after all. The push notifications. The rings. The buzzes. THE FEEDS. The FOMO.

All that stuff takes away from the moment.

Oh, and also, perhaps the biggest contributing factor at all—most things? are boring.

Do you feel that way?

I find I do.

I find most of the time the way I am interpreting a conversation or a flow of dialogue leans boring. Like, I get bored from most people. It is not clear that the situation is boring—perhaps it could be more vibrant in ways—but rather that I am making judgements? that cause the situation to be interpreted at boring.

This makes FULLY ACTIVE LISTENING hard for me because, well, I am more interested in other? things. Other things that may or many not have to do with the person sitting (or Zooming) across from me such that I (and probably they) would be better half leaving the conversation rather than participating at 50%.

I find that participating at 50% leads to draining of energy whereas being fully present and fully there for something—100% focused—actually yields me gaining energy. Weird how that works—you may think the opposite—but test it for yourself.

So the question I ask myself, the prompt above, is how can I reprogram the way I approach listening to others such that I actually enjoy it? I want to enjoy it because I know that I perform better (broadly speaking) at things I enjoy. And I want to be better at listening because I believe coordinating with other humans is an important piece of achieving the creation of important things.

I am not going to want to be listening to people all the time. But I do want to acknowledge that YES it is likely I need to coordinate with other people in the future.

So I define listening below as follows:

I want to define listening NOT as actually doing what people to tell me to do. I in no way want to be signing up for that. I think that is generally bad, most of the time (for many reasons that are probably not worth getting into in this essay).

I define listening as simply making other people feel like I care about what they have to say, but doing so in a genuine way (rather than artificially trying to convince them that I am doing how to win friends and influence people).

To do that, I need to actually enjoy—I think—the tediousness of mundane conversations.

So how can I enjoy it?

Well, I think I need to make it more of a game. A game I can learn to care about and learn to love and be comfortable with. And I think that game looks a bit more like this: I need to focus less on the content and more on the context. I need to care about the HOW as much as if not more than the what.

  • How do people show up in conversations? Why is that happening? Slowly peel back the onion rather than trying to do it all at once. How can I crack this mystery case?

When you meet the person exceptional at listening, how do they show up? What makes them so good at it? Are they quiet or do they talk a lot? Are they talking quickly or slowly?