Monday, February 4, 2013

We are Losing the Art of Listening

I wanted to write this post as an extension of my previous post titled Feeling Alone in a Technology Driven and Social Media Society

There is an enormous difference between hearing someone’s voice and actually listening to what they are saying.  Hearing involves sound, while listening involves the mind and emotions.  As we find ourselves more focused on digital technology, I believe we are losing the art of truly listening to what people are saying.  We may be hearing them, but what they are saying is not sinking in.  

I’ve experienced this many times in my own life.  I’ll be talking to someone, and they are looking at their cell phone, computer, or TV.  They seem interested in what I have to say and they acknowledge me with an “Uh, huh” or “Oh, really?”, but afterwards I realize they were not really listening at all.  Hours or days later, the topic I was verbalizing comes up again and this person doesn’t remember what I said to them before.  I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of doing this very same thing to others.  If I’m trying to multi-task between technology and a face to face conversation, it usually doesn’t work out well.  While I may hear what the person is saying, I’m not really listening to them and taking it to heart or mind.  Therefore, I easily forget what they were saying or only remember small fragments.  With all the technology and social media constantly bombarding us, I believe we are losing the ability to devote our focus on one thing or person at a time.

What can we do?  How can we stop ourselves from losing the art of listening?  Here are just a few simple ideas that I write for my personal benefit as much as I write them to promote better listening skills:

When someone is speaking to you…

…give them your wholehearted attention

…if they are in person, look them in the eyes

…engage your mind to pay attention not merely to their words but also the meaning of those words

…listen to what they are saying verbally

…listen to what they are saying silently with their eyes, tone, and body language

…keep your attention from wandering to your cell phone, computer, or TV

…hear them out without interrupting and do not derail their dialogue  (Many times, I have paused to gather the next words to express my thoughts and the person I’m talking to takes over the conversation, and I never get to finish what I wanted to say.)

…affirm you understand what they are saying, and if you don’t, ask them to clarify

…if you are spending time with a person(s), do not hang out with someone else by texting or checking social media at the same time

I do not enjoy talking on the phone, and I much prefer in-person conversation.  When I do talk on the phone for long periods of time, I find myself sometimes having to close my eyes to be able to really pay attention to what the person on the other end is saying.  It’s too easy for me to get distracted by whatever else is going on around me, whether it’s visual or audible. 

A Facebook friend shared the following video clip a couple of days ago when I was in the middle of writing Feeling Alone in a Technology Driven and Social Media Society.  I did not take the time to watch the clip at that time, but I watched it this morning and highly recommend it. All I could say in my mind as I heard Sherry Turkle speak was "YES! YES! YES!”  The video is of Sherry Turkle, author of AloneTogether: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.  

As with any other topics of discussion, there are those who disagree with Sherry Turkle and would probably disagree with my posts on these subjects about relationships, technology, and social media.  Whether in agreement or disagreement, the different viewer’s comments about the video are interesting and thought provoking. 

Blessings on your journey!

Update - on March 23, 2013 I came across this article that spoke along these same lines:  "How To Miss a Childhood".  I believe we don't just miss our children's childhood.  I believe we miss all sorts of relationships with people around us and who touch our lives day to day.

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