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This month, I’ve been thinking a lot about listening: whether I do enough of it and whether it’s the right kind of listening. When I read Aunt Josephine’s column: “How can I get a word in edgeways” (page 43), I didn’t think ‘Eek, I hope that’s not me’ – I’m not that bad, honestly!
But I did wonder if we can all be guilty of over-talking and under-listening at times.
I know, for instance, that when someone tells me a story – be it happy, sad, funny – I often join in with a similar, personal experience. This is partly because I like to share stories as a way to connect, but it’s also because I want to show the other person that I truly understand how they feel. I also know that sometimes, in my desire to show the other person how much I empathise with them, I leap in with my story before they have properly finished telling theirs. While my motivation for this is well-meant, this is maybe a bit annoying at times and definitely an indication of me not listening fully. And, if the story being shared is a sad or difficult one, probably not what the other person actually needs.
So when I catch myself doing it – mind slightly wandering, off retrieving anecdotes from the vaults – I’ve been trying to bring myself back to the present and truly listen. It’s a hard habit to break. But what I have discovered is that listening fully, and letting go of the need to respond so quickly, is a much calmer way to have a conversation. And it doesn’t mean that I have to stop sharing my stories either – I just need to slow down a bit so I don’t miss any of anyone else’s.
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