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Would It Kill You To Listen?

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Would It Kill You To Listen?

I finished editing this lovely image of a rickety old bridge and was searching for a good quote to go along with it for posting on social media. I liked this one by Turkish playwright Mehmet Murat Ildan:

"In the middle of nowhere, an old wooden bridge is a golden bridge!"

Fitting as it was, I found this one by Stephen Covey, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People guy:

"Most people don't listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply."

And I decided to go with the Covey quote because this is a topic that I've been obsessing on lately. The older I get, the more I realize that people are seemingly intent upon speaking more, dominating a conversation, word vomiting and getting the last word. A lot of folks lack the skill to listen and process what the other person is saying (empathy, anyone?) and are hell-bent on being right (even if they're wrong).

When I was younger, I had the impression that those who speak a lot must be smarter than me. Not always true! By nature, I'm an observer and a listener. I'd rather listen and learn, and speak when I know what I'm talking about. I'm not the best at thinking on my feet or bullshitting my way through a conversation. In fact, I'm a deer in headlights if I don't know how to respond, causing the other person to say things like, "Are you with me?" Yes, I am, but this is my processing face. Or, my "listening to understand" face as Covey so eloquently phrases it.

Unfortunately, when I'm done processing and ready to speak, I often can't get a word in. I open my mouth to speak and the other person is already speaking over me and onto the next topic. Or they've completely cut me off or finished my sentence for me. A great example of this phenomenon can be seen nightly on CNN when there's a panel of 3 or 4 "experts" and they're all speaking over each other and saying things like, "let me finish, let me finish, let me finish." There's always that person who will keep speaking about nothing over others, just to prove they can be the dominant speaker. Those aren't conversations, they're competitions and completely unproductive.

If what I've said resonates with you, maybe you can try listening to understand a little more. Covey call this listening with empathy: "When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air. And after that vital need is met, you can then focus on influencing or problem solving."