On Listening

I have a small list of things I like to read as often as I can that reminds me, essentially, not to be antisocial. But it’s actually deeper than that. It’s my list of mantras, things I need to work on, be better at, be aware of, etc. It takes some courage to do this list because it’s like looking at a greatest hits album of all your personal shortcomings. But it’s also amazing, because once you have that list relatively evolved, you can draw great confidence in knowing that, when you read this list, or right after, “as long as I do these things I’m good”. It’s like a guide to being yourself.

One thing I’m constantly working on is listening. It’s the golden skill. Great listeners make everyone feel a warm kind of special that is like your mom intently listening to you talk about something she has zero interest in but intensely listening like you just invented pop corn. It’s special.

Something occurred to me this morning as I was adding a listening note to my list. The note I wrote essentially was getting at making sure that I don’t just intently listen to the people I’m interested in, but also the people I may not be so psyched to be engaged with. And that’s because as I was writing this note I realized that listening is like a little gift. And if there’s something we can do to make people a little happier in their day we should 100% do it. That’s life right? Make everyone a little happier than they were when they first engaged with you and if everyone does that we’ll all win. Right?

It’s like holding a door for someone, we do it, because it’s courteous, but it’s also a fun easy way to do something helpful. We both win, you feel special and I feel helpful. I’m learning that listening is so much the same kind of thing. Intensely listening to someone, giving them our 100% attention (even if they’re not 100% interesting) is like a way to make them feel special. And if we all did this there would such a cleaner way of communicating and so many problems I think would magically disappear.

So many of our problems lie in not listening to eachother.

It’s based on this “if you don’t agree with me 100% I’m not interested in your thoughts” kind of thing that makes human beings so divided. But if we inject this intense respectful listening, be it in a meeting or at a bar, regardless of who the person is, we would be constantly creating this tone of respect and safety and I think it would solve a lot of the worlds problems. I know from myself, and what I believe myself to be a “listener in training” that as I become a better listener, not only am I becoming happier but I’m also making the people around me a lot happier as well.

But it’s hard, something in our brain just wants to break concentration and turn our attention elsewhere. Maybe it’s to avoid discomfort, which we are driven for a humans, or perhaps just anxiety (I have to get the kids 20 minutes ago … ahhh!). It seems to be this primal feature inside that’s half controlled by us and half controlled by our subconscience. “Stop interrupting people” you tell yourself and then boom it slips out again. Who is captaining this ship damnit!?

Here’s what I wrote in my “Daily Mantra” list. It needs to be tweaked but you get the idea:

Transcend “tolerating” listening, flow in it by being with people that are awesome enough to want to listen to them. If not, flow in the quiet of listening and making them feel 100% special for expressing their thoughts, feelings. We communicate our needs subtly by the way and substance of what we say. Pay attention to these needs and you will understand what a person needs to be happy.