A few months ago I came across “You Learn by Living” by Eleanor Roosevelt. I wish I had read it many years ago. She inspired me more than any other first lady. One idea (of the many I wrote down) was about listening. I feel that over the past few years we as a society have become horrible listeners. There are too many other things happening around us. Our phone is ringing, we are getting a text message, sending an email, or in the middle of a level of Angry Birds. We multi-task. I myself am just as much to blame. I am a hard-core multi-tasker. I of course feel like I do an amazing job at it, but do I really? I feel like I do, but I often wonder if I am just trying to make myself feel better about all that I am trying to do at once. This is what she says about listening:
“If such a search is to be successful, however, you will need two qualities which you can develop by practice. One is the ability to be a good listener. The other is the imaginative ability to put yourself in the other person’s place; to try to discover what he is thinking and feeling; to understand as far as you can the background from which he came, the soil out of which his roots have grown, the customs and beliefs and ideas which have shaped his thinking.” P. 136
Three short sentences that are jam-packed with ideas. Do you have an “imaginative ability to be a good listener?” To me that means going to extremes to make sure that the person you are engaged with knows you are listening, and that…you ACTUALLY are. What if you tried that for one week? What if you made sure that every conversation and interaction you had, you were focused 100%? I would like to try that over the next week and see if I can tell the difference in how I connect with others. Do I feel I understand them more, retained more information, and better executed on my part of the conversation? Did I tell someone I would follow through on something?
I also love where she says: “the imaginative ability to put yourself in the other person’s place; to discover what he is thinking and feeling” – it is something I try to do. See, I love learning about people. You could say people fascinate me. I always have the thought in my mind: “put yourself in their shoes.” I think it helps to relate to others who might be different from you, that might even have an opposite upbringing and life experience. I think it gives a person empathy when interacting with others.
So, are you with me? Do you want to try to listen 100% over the next week?