Several months ago I started to become aware of my tendency to start talking before the person I am listening to has fully completed his or her train of thought. It took me a while to honestly admit to myself that I cut people off and talk over them – not all the time, but enough to warrant some reflection. And wrapped up in this was the reality that every time I started talking before the person speaking was finished I was failing to fully hear the other person. As someone who has always prided herself on being a good listener, I was embarrassed by this realization. Noticing and admitting our less than stellar habits is never fun.
Over the last month I have been using FaceTime to teach students in New York while I am in California. With FaceTime only one person can speak at a time or both voices get canceled out and there is just silence, which has magnified my less than favorable habit. With one student in particular, I was constantly catching myself beginning to talk while she was still speaking. I wound up missing a lot of what she was attempting to share. And so, because I had to, I forced myself to practice pausing and waiting for her to finish speaking before offering responses. I realized that more often than not, a response wasn’t needed. I didn’t need to add my two cents or comment on what she had said. I simply needed to listen. And she simply needed to be heard.
How often do we start listening to someone then begin formulating what our response will be before the person has fully finished speaking? How often do we actually interrupt people so that we can be heard before truly hearing what others have to say first? I invite you to catch yourself in these moments (surely I am not alone in the struggle to fully listen to others all the time). Listening without planning out what to say in response or beginning to offer that response before the other person has finished speaking has proven to be quite a challenge for me. During every FaceTime session with students I am able to practice genuinely listening – in this case technology has truly been a blessing.