Do you ever get the sense that blah, blah, blah is what people hear when you are speaking?
Do you try really hard to listen to your co-worker, your boss, your friend and your honey but they might as well be saying blah, blah, blah?Sometimes we hear the first few words and then get distracted. A horn honks, a dog barks, a bee flies past your nose. You notice their shirt is missing a button, the wind has picked up outside and that your fingernails are still dirty even after scrubbing them with the nail brush.
It isn’t that you don’t care what they are saying or that you are not interested. The real issue is our minds can process information 4x faster than people can speak. So we are hearing what they are saying but we also have time to let our minds wander a bit, to daydream to use the rest of our senses. Too much time on our hands can get us into trouble!
Some people are pretty good at fake listening. They nod their head, give the occasional grunting noise and smile at you. Those small gestures are not likely to overshadow looking at their watch, scrolling on the laptop or reading their incoming text messages. It is so much nicer to talk to someone who really listens, asks follow-up questions and is genuinely interested in what you have to say.
When we engage in conversation with people we send intended and unintended messages. Our verbal and non-verbal communication either relay that we are engaged, listening, and interested in what they have to say or that we are bored, distracted or simply don’t care.
I find it funny that I am not a people person but I prioritize spending time with my honey, my family and my friends. People are important to me. If I want my loved ones to know I care about their happiness, I have to care about the important conversations as well as the daily chit, chat.
My honey plays tennis a couple of times per week and when she comes home she excitedly tells me all about it. Usually, I am good about stopping what I am doing and take the time to actively listen to her and to engage in the tennis conversation.
My sister (Child #1) plays bridge and when I ask her how she did, she likes to tell me all about it. I don’t know anything about bridge so I am kind of lost in the conversation. But I am happy she did well and enjoyed herself.
Occasionally, I catch myself fake listening as I try to keep reading on my laptop, listening to a podcast or checking my email. I am not very good at fake listening and pretty soon it is clear I have no idea what the speaker is saying (blah, blah, blah) and I am also lost in whatever else I was trying to do as well.
If the average person speaks roughly 150 words per minute and we are capable of processing 500 words per minute; why is it that we only retain 25% of what we hear? The rest is misunderstood, forgotten or gets distorted in our interpretation.
Maybe if the person we are speaking to would speak faster our minds wouldn’t have time to roam and we wouldn’t get so distracted.! Just kidding…
Think about when someone is nervous and they talk really fast, I doubt people comprehend more than if they were speaking at a normal pace.
If people are important to you, if you want them to know you care about their happiness then you have to do more than hear them out. You have to really listen to what they are saying. Listening with intent means we are curious and engaged in the conversations, it means we don’t interrupt the speaker. It means we are focused on the speaker and not on the shiny new gadget in our hands or the stain on our shirt.
I don’t like the message that I unintentionally communicate when fake listening to others. Here are a few ways I have been trying to improve.
- I put down the cell phone, shut the cover on the laptop and turn off the music
- I look at the speaker, make eye-contact and nod my head.
- I let them speak without interrupting them so they can say what they need to say.
It is too easy to let distractions get in the way of what is really important. I choose happiness by spending time with loved ones and prioritizing people means really listening to what they have to say. So if you catch me fake listening, feel free to call me out on it!