lost art of listeningUsually, I like to write about issues that are well grounded in data and evidence. That’s not the case with today’s blog. Maybe someone has data that contradicts what I plan to write, but I’m not so sure. I do know that a clever social psychologist could readily conduct research on this topic. So what am I talking about?

Listening. It seems to me that people hardly listen to each other anymore. More frighteningly, maybe they never have and I’m just becoming more aware of it. Do you agree or see it differently? Before you form a firm opinion, consider observing a while.

For starters, try listening to political debates on the television. I’ve spent many hours fascinated by such debates. But how often do you see the debaters running over each others’ words? Do you ever hear them truly acknowledge the value of even a part of their opponents’ viewpoints? Do you ever see evidence of anyone actually processing and pondering the other side’s perspective before retorting? How often do you see willingness to compromise?

Or, try tuning into other people’s conversations at restaurants or elsewhere (yes, I know, you’re not “supposed to” eavesdrop). Again, how often do you hear people cutting each other off in mid-sentence? How often do you hear someone share something with someone else who then follows up with several questions designed to learn more about the issue? Do you detect people truly trying to understand each others’ perspectives and at least process what has been said?

Also, try carefully observing how the conversations you have with other people either flow or stumble. Do you ask others for more clarifying information or just assume you understand what was said and move on? How about your friends and family? Do they ask you questions to more fully appreciate and understand where you’re coming from whether they agree with you or not? Or do you often feel unheard, ignored, or run over? Does it feel like your friends can’t wait for you to finish so they can talk?

I’m not suggesting that we all need to agree with each other. But it seems to me that listening to one another has gone out of style and that we would all do better to start tuning in again. Then again, maybe you view this idea differently.

I wonder if anyone is listening…

Photo by Jonathan Powell, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.