Hey, listen… hello?
Listening is difficult even at the best of times.
But now, with the world changing so much, did you know that listening is harder than ever?
Listening requires attention. And our attention is being pulled in so many different directions.
Our worries, needs and stressors are always tugging on us, wanting attention.
World news, new technologies, constant marketing messages, new working methods, all drain our capacity to focus our attention. Perhaps you’ve noticed?
All of that is extra stress on top of our usual challenges to listening
When listening to others, it is normal for ideas and pictures to pop up in our mind and distract us.
As we attempt to listen to someone else’s story or problem, we will automatically start thinking of how we have also experienced something similar and we lose the thread of their story.
And, of course, our incessant desire to fix and solve things for others will also interfere with us fully paying attention.
It’s no wonder we find listening difficult even on a good day!
And now the extra stress in our lives is challenging our ability to focus and that is reducing our ability to listen.
What can we do?
Put some attention on how you use your attention. Next time you are in a conversation, notice how much you are really listening compared to how much your mind is drawn to other topics.
Notice how much your own brain gets in your way by sending you thoughts, pictures, and other signals.
See if you can set aside those internal distractions and focus. Focus is like a muscle – we need to exercise it to strengthen it.
You could repeat back what you have heard so you ensure that you have understood it correctly. Or you could repeat the other person’s words in your own mind to help you focus on what they are saying.
If you find you have very little attention span, then consider your own self-care. Make sure you are getting enough sleep and breaks during a day. Exercise and/or practice some kind of mindfulness. Take walks. All of this will strengthen your capacity to focus and that will help you listen better.
Focus is essential; now, more than ever, we need to listen to each other.Creating a culture of belongingThe power of closed questions