“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
Listen to Understand
By Erin Taylor
In life and in business, we often grow attached to our own versions of the “status quo” and get so sucked into our routines, it can be hard to even notice we’re doing it at all. I often feel as though the majority of my actions and reactions are set to autopilot, feeling as though my sense of habit is driving my life instead of me. And while this can help make us feel comfortable, it can often be detrimental to ourselves and to our relationships. But how do we break these habits? Can we unlearn our unhealthy behaviors? While personally, I don’t believe we can “unlearn” anything, I do believe we can learn new things and in order to gain new understanding, we must learn how to truly listen. Listen to understand.
So, what does that really mean? To me, it means trying to quiet my own headspace. I don’t know about you, but my brain is on overdrive. I have a million thoughts coming through and I often become extremely scattered because my thought process is constantly bringing me from one thing to the next. Quieting that inner voice just enough to allow yourself to be open to new things is huge, because once you can quiet down, you then create the space to listen; listen to other people, new ideas, new practices. How do you quiet your own headspace?
I’m a problem solver. My first inclination when someone reaches out to me for support is to fix things. I will tell them all the things I think they can do to feel better and give advice (both solicited and unsolicited) until the end of time. And while this can be beneficial, that’s not always what support looks like. Sometimes support means just sitting with someone while they talk or cry and saying nothing at all. Sometimes it’s a long hug. Sometimes it’s a reassuring, “I’m here for you” and “it’s going to be okay”. And sometimes, support means giving a person space entirely. We all have different needs and preferences and I know for me, when I need someone, I typically either want a hug or I want someone to just sit with me in my feelings and be like, “you know what, Erin? You’re right. This sucks”! But how do we know what we or other people need? You need only ask and then, listen.
This is important in every area of our lives. In business, we often have to collaborate with others. Maybe you’re on a team or you’re grouped with others for certain projects. The objective is to allow for everyone to be seen and heard and for your collective thoughts and ideas to come out on paper (or other various forms). That’s the whole point of group work! But, if you have someone or multiple people who are so in their own way that they don’t take the time to listen to others, it creates an environment where people feel underappreciated and not heard, and that just sucks. Looking back on projects I had in school, there always seemed to be at least one person who wanted to do the brunt of the work, perhaps out of control and anxiety because they wanted it to be done “right”, or out of ego; wanting to get the credit for the hard work and job well done. And while some may feel comfortable to just sit back and let someone else do the driving, it’s important that we all feel acknowledged and appreciated. When we can listen to one another’s needs, even if we can’t always oblige, sometimes just knowing that someone took the time to hear you out is all you need.
While I’m not sure we will ever truly understand one another (I’m not even sure I fully understand myself), I think we can get pretty damn close. As humans, we all experience the same emotions which means we all feel happy, sad, hungry, tired, insecure, envious, anger… the list goes on. And while our trigger points and reasons behind why these emotions arise may vary, we are never alone in what we feel, and that’s a hard realization to grasp. And why is that? Because you only ever know what it’s like to be YOU. You will never be anybody else. As hard as you may try to be like someone else, you will only ever be who you are so it is quite impossible for you to therefore understand what is truly best for another person and any judgement you may have about another simply comes from something within yourself that maybe you don’t feel so great about. We can’t fully understand, but we can try and I think it is SO worth it to just try. Listen to one another. Whether you agree or disagree, listen. Listen to each other’s fears, pain, loss and struggle. Listen to people when they’re excited and feeling happy. Celebrate with them! Cry with them. We’re all human beings who want so badly to feel like we matter. And right now, this feels as important as ever. Embrace each other and sit in the discomfort you may feel or someone else may feel. After all, we were built to feel so instead of pushing those feelings down, no matter how ugly they may manifest, sit with it. I think it will suit us all well in the long run.
If you’ve gotten this far, I want to thank you for listening (in this case, reading). This is a way that I feel heard and so I appreciate you taking the time to unravel some things with me a bit, and I would love to take the time to do this with you too! For anyone reading, I want to know how you feel right now. I want to know what support looks like to you! I’m here to listen and support in any way that I can and I would absolutely love to hear your feedback. Whoever you are, while I may not know you, I’m here with you. Thank you for being here with me.