I can be insufficient to listening when the conversation can be quite “dry”. When the person I am talking to does not quite engage me into the conversation. This can also happen when I just cannot focus on this person’s story. There are times where I am in conversations and just dose off and think about something else and pop in once in a while to get to understand at least a small section of what they are saying. This sounds terrible but it happens sometimes and I can’t help it. I do the insufficient listening replies like “that’s crazy” and “oh wow”, but sometimes I’m actually listening but I can’t appropriately reply. I can probably change this by applying myself into the conversation, not like narcissistic listening but try my best to engage myself. I should actually try harder with this because my “huh” replies are getting old to my roommates when I talk to them.
I have a great appreciation for Brown’s quote regarding the idea that you can live and learn something from everyone you meet. You may not necessarily NEED some information from someone you meet, but it may be something you should know. Of course, that is also under the assumption that one was to take the quote literally. I believe the foundation of the quote’s meaning is to refrain from rejecting information from any given person or group just because you may not want to hear it.
It can be easy to “listen” to advice that someone gives you, but not really take it into consideration. There have been several times in high school when I was given advice on how I should do something, and I “listened” to their advice. However, I never really considered it. Only a few words in, I already decided whether I would give their advice a second thought later that day or not. I don’t want to imply I was rude to these people or disliked them at all. More often than not, my advisors were my best friends. The issue lied within some pride I had, and thinking to myself that I didn’t really need their advice.
Looking at the quote from a broader point, it also applies to many different situations in everyday life. If not friends or family giving you life lessons, then maybe a stranger expressing a different viewpoint that you’re not used to. Perhaps you don’t agree with them, but simply listening to what they say and thinking about it a little bit deeper can help you understand why they think that way. If anything, it can help you reinforce your own viewpoints.
Listening to others is a huge part of what helps us shape our own identities. I learned that keeping an open mind and always at least lending an ear to others can teach you a lot of things. After all, it’s not any of us are born knowing everything the world has to offer.
- Being so interested in what you have to say that you listen mainly to find an opening to get the floor.
When talking about a topic that I am interested in and excited about, I am guilty of this. Especially if I think what I have to say is important to the conversation or would be good to say / tell the other person. One example would be talking about a road trip I planned and if I was excited to go to a specific place, waiting to be able to mention that place or my plan.
If someone says something wrong, meaning if they misunderstood something or what I said, I try and tell them as soon as I can that there was a misunderstanding.
I also do this sometimes if someone is a talker, or does not let me talk or put a word in, because I want to input as well. People sometimes talk over me, which is not too fun – and I try to find a place where I can put my input as well.
The other time when I do this is when I have something I am really excited about to tell the other person but they will not stop talking.
- Formulating and listening to your own rebuttal to what the speaker is saying.
I do this a decent amount with people I know that ramble a lot. The main reason is so I can remember what I want to say, if I do not keep it in my mind and keep thinking about it I will lose the train of thought. It is not something I like to do since it makes me feel more overwhelmed because of having to remember extra, but if I do not do it I will forget. I suppose in order to limit this I can try and write some things I want to say down on paper.
I also tend to do this when I am in an argument or heated discussion, especially if we are both trying to prove out point. When I am angry or heated, I try and be calm but sometimes I just want to get my point out. I discuss things with a lot of people and it is always difficult if I cannot get a word in edgewise.
- Not asking for clarification when you know that you do not understand.
Sometimes when I am too timid to ask someone who may get upset or think I am stupid, I just do not ask for clarification. This is mostly in class or when someone mentions a famous person or a topic and acts like I should know about it. I do not want to be teased so just not saying anything or asking about it works.
I know there are things I can do to become a better active listener, which I would certainly love to do. I would also like to learn how to help those that are close to me to become better active listeners so that our communication is better.
Whether I’m expressing joy over an eventful day, or frustration over life’s overwhelming responsibilities, my mother has always been one of the greatest active listeners in my life. Something about her motherly demeanor and caring personality have always led me to seek her thoughtful advice and welcoming comfort.
Unlike action-oriented listeners (like some of my friends), my mom is a people-oriented listener, checking off all the boxes in the five-step process known as listening. For instance, as I’m telling her about how frustrating finals week is getting over the phone, she receives the thoughts I’m expressing to her and attends to them based on the salience of my tone of voice. Simultaneously, she is understanding what I’m telling her, comparing this experience to previous semesters and how I’ve reacted to those experiences. As I continue sharing my thoughts and concerns, she periodically responds by giving verbal feedback like “uh-huh” or “yeah” as she deems appropriate. In person, she also gives off back-channel cues like nodding and occasional comments to ensure to me that she’s listening attentively. And after I’ve finally finished voicing my thoughts, she recalls them and offers me comfort and advice regarding the situation if necessary.
As the book states, we must adapt our listening purposes to the changing demands of interpersonal encounters. In other words, we must adapt aspects of our listening, such as our listening purpose, based on the content of the conversation. If I tell my mom that I didn’t get an internship I applied for, for example, she wouldn’t listen to analyze or discern, but instead she listens to comprehend and to support. She comprehends how the rejection has affected me and expresses empathy towards those feelings. Similarly, if I successfully land an internship, she notices my excitement and supports me by congratulating me.
Day in and day out, we interact with all types of listeners. Some may be great listeners, others might be absolutely terrible. But when we find someone who is a genuine listener that checks off all the boxes and makes you feel important and cared for, we should cherish that person and the relationship we share with them.
I have a confession. I admit I am guilty of underestimating a person strictly because of their appearance. Yes, it is a shitty thing to do. It’s unfair and superficial, but I think it is safe to say that I am not the only one who has done this. It actually happened a couple of weeks ago; one of my older classmates (let’s call him Bob) was about to present his project to the class. Specific characteristics about Bob made me think he wasn’t the brightest nor the sharpest. So, there I was; half-heartedly listening to his presentation (only because I was loosing focus on having to listen to so many other projects) and totally oblivious for what was about to come.
A couple of minutes passed until I started to really pay attention to what he had to say about the subject he chose. He wasn’t like the other classmates; he was very engaging and enlivened. Bob talked about the subject of war as if he had first hand experience of it. It was just a project for school, but he put his heart and soul into it when he talked about how ancient soldiers use to fight. He completely captured my attention. Once he was done, our teacher asked him why he chose to talk about war. A sad smile appeared on his weathered-out face.
“Well, it is easy to talk about something if you have been through it yourself. I know what it feels like to be gunned down and stabbed. I still remember fighting in the Vietnam War like it was yesterday,” he explained.
My mouth dropped to the floor in utter shock. In that moment, I knew I had totally misjudged this man. He was a war hero. He went on about his experiences in combat and the men he used to know who fight by his side. He talked about what it was like to kill another human being.
“You know…,” his voice cracked from the budding tears, “they teach you how to kill and how to start a war, but they never teach you how to stop it.”
Tears trickled down my own cheeks; his story was like something you would hear in a movie. But it wasn’t, it was his own life that he experienced through his own eyes. It wasn’t some made up, glorified war story where the hero goes home unscathed of war’s wrath. He was a living, breathing veteran who has seen things I could not even imagine. My respect for him skyrocketed. I could feel his pain as he poured his life out in front of us. The class was in tears as they were just as surprised as I was to hear about what this man went through. Although the Vietnam War ended for him long ago, a psychological and mental battle still wages inside his mind. He is a tortured soul, but he is miraculous because despite the suffering he still chooses life. Even though he wanted nothing else in the whole wide world to die alongside his friends on that battlefield, he still chooses to keep going.
“I truly wanted to die. I wanted to end the pain. But I knew, deep down, there was a part of me that was begging to live,” he weeped.
It baffles me to think that I once underestimated Bob. Little did I know how much wisdom and stories he had to share. I could endlessly learn from people like Bob. In fact, I can learn from anyone. I just have to keep an open mind and listen. I did not know what I needed to know until Bob shared his life; never judge a book by its cover.