What Does it Mean to Truly Listen?
I’ve been an active listener my entire life. That might not seem like something that makes me stand out–we all listen, right?
How many times have you been talking to someone and had the feeling that they weren’t paying attention? Have you ever felt that they were hearing you, but not truly listening to what you were saying?
Active listeners engage with the person who is speaking. They don’t just listen to the words coming out of your mouth.
They might have an empathic nature that allows them to connect with the person who is speaking, whether they’re standing right in front of them or chatting with them hundreds of miles away through a phone or computer. Active listeners not only hear your words, they often hear what lies beneath those words.
In a fast-paced culture of 140 character tweets and status updates that we send out into the ether, we’re using our words and hanging on tender hooks to see if anyone will acknowledge them and reply.
We’re talking, but is anyone truly listening anymore?
Instead of the give and take of natural conversation, our heads fill with digital chatter. Everyone is talking, but there’s no soul receiving what we’re saying.
I could shout from top of a building with a megaphone and 9 out of 10 of you would take cursory notice then keep walking past. Is the fabric of the modern world with its circuits and drives, actually turning us into passive listeners?
From the strangers who strike up conversations with me about the most intimate and personal details of their lives, to the friends and family who confide in me, people have sought me out to listen ever since I was a child. Where are you, my tribe of listeners?
An active listener can make you feel less alone, less frightened, less like you’re drowning. They can join you in your celebrations and soften your defeats. They are invaluable to the social nature of the human animal, but are they a dying breed?