I want to be listened to and not talked at in a conversation.
In the face of modern communication brought to us at hyper-speed and condensed thought, we now have quick bits of information coming at us on overdrive. It can be filled with emotion-driven content, fueled by countless experts with strong opinions, and supported by the armchair activist crowd. The result is a weakened ability to discuss in earnest with anyone who doesn’t align with you.
Meaningful, rational, ‘I hear you’ conversations that further our enlightenment towards a greater good get lost. Instead, we are too often reduced to shallow bits and pieces of information that are so hyper-focused from particular viewpoints that the information coming at us is already acting as the judge and jury for how you should think.
In part, this happened because there’s too much information coming at us ALL THE TIME. So much information that is packaged as quick – quick – quick. Is it any wonder then why we don’t communicate as effectively as we once did? Who has the time?
Here’s the thing, haste makes waste. We all know this to be true, and it’s most certainly true when it comes to being heard; really heard. It’s important for you (or the person trying to tell you something). Heard with a certain sense of clarity of the topic at hand. Heard with a sense of understanding of what’s being conveyed. Heard with an open mind and heart – knowing you’ve been heard because you were truly listened to.
It doesn’t take much, just three simple steps to bring the conversation back to a meaningful place of connection when it’s needed, and believe me, there are times when it IS needed. I can think of many reasons in today’s world why it’s important to have meaningful conversations. When those times are upon you, think about the following:
Be a respectful listener
Acknowledge what you’ve heard
Add to the narrative without hijacking it.
Be a respectful listener.
We all share stories and information. When it’s your turn to be the listener, listen and be respectful. Engage in the listening process. Don’t tweet, email, text, or whatever else you can do with your multi-tasking self. Just listen (and try to keep your eyes from wandering if it’s face to face). Remember, we evolved with face-to-face communication, so it’s in our nature to use that time to connect and communicate truly.
But what’s also true is that this form of communication (face-to-face) is not as easy to have if you’re not used to it. It can even bring up a level of discomfort. If that’s the case, this is one time when moving beyond your comfort level is a good thing. When you actively engage in the listening process, you’re practicing a form of exercise for the brain. Focusing on the conversation at hand will not only open up many more thoughts and questions for you while you’re listening, but it will also strengthen the skill for the next time.
Acknowledge and process what you hear to deepen your understanding of the topic at hand.
This requires your involvement and a mirroring back of what you heard. It’s the key operative motif in a meaningful conversation. Acknowledge what you’ve heard because you want to build a consensus. That’s why we speak – to build a validity of thought in a true consensus. To see if we agree or disagree OR if it’s a truly divisive line of thinking and we’re lost in a cyclical conundrum. Right or wrong – whatever it is – acknowledge you’ve heard it.
Add to the narrative.
Regardless of where you find yourself with the conversation, you need to accept the thoughts at hand. This doesn’t mean always agreeing, but instead, always being willing to promote the art of meaningful conversation with meaningful input. Add to the building blocks of the narrative at hand. Don’t own the narrative, but keep it fluid. Talk about your understanding of the subject, but don’t own it. The light is not on you alone; it’s shared by all.
One of my favorite storybooks for reading aloud with my kids is still “You Can’t Please Everyone.” In our version, it’s the story of a father and son trying to take their donkey to market for sale, but how they decide to get it there causes quite a controversy depending on who they pass along the way. So, they keep changing their approach and eventually find themselves in a pickle. To get out of their mess and make it to market, they go back to their original plan. The moral of the story is to do what works for you and know that it’s the right plan for you.