Listening in the Digital Age
Have people been telling you: “put down the phone and listen to me?” Do you talk more frequently with Siri then with the people you live with? Are you easily distracted when others speak, just waiting for the chance to check your messages?
If you are shamefully shaking your head ‘yes,’ listen up!
It’s time for you to learn the skills of active listening. Sure, it takes effort; but so does learning any skill. And it’s worth it, as it pays ever-increasing benefits in your home life and work life.
Indeed, not listening is a primary source of distress in many families:
“I could say something 100 times and he still doesn’t hear me.”
“I won’t even tell her what I’m thinking because she’d jump down my throat before I even finish my sentence.”
And in many work situations:
“We agreed that our appointment was between 10 and 11 and he thought it was after 11.”
“I’ll never use that adviser again; she was more interested in selling her products than to listening to my concerns.”
Yes, it’s true that we live in an age of short attention spans, multiple distractions, increased restlessness and impatience. But, it’s best for you to try to overcome these factors, not use them as excuses.
So, let’s begin with Active-Listening 101 which, for our purposes will be taught by, no, not a Ph.D. professor with credentials up the kazoo, but by a simple couple in love who knows that listening is caring.
This couple makes excellent eye contact. They show interest in what is being said. They ask questions. They nod in agreement. They smile. They make a comment that moves the conversation along. They learn as they listen. They enjoy as they listen. They contribute as they listen. If they glance at their digital device, it is to share something with their love.
They intuitively know that active listening creates greater understanding. They know that it is important and worthwhile. They know that great listening is much more than just settling for the main gist of a conversation. They know that it is also being aware of the nuances, subtleties and context of what their loved one is saying.
Yes, a couple in love knows a great deal about active listening. And yet, as time passes, it’s not unusual for listening skills to taper off. Direct eye contact is not always made. Listening is done with half an ear. Digital devices compete for attention. Reassuring nonverbal cues taper off.
Some of this change in listening skills is to be expected as people become more comfortable with one another. If left unchecked, however, instead of feeling listened to, cared for and respected, one or both people will now feel dismissed, disregarded and disrespected. Not good.
Linda Sapadin is a psychologist and personal coach in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. For more information about her work, contact her by email or visit her website at PsychWisdom.