What I learned last year – David Bryant

By christinewatson / / 2012 was a good year. I finally learned to listen to other people. It’s not an admission that comes easy. Especially given what a good listener I thought I was, before I realized I wasn’t. Active listening bears very little relationship to the kind of everyday listening we do to each other at home, and especially at work. Let’s face it, we’re all pretty bad listeners. Most work meetings are stuffed full of people who have mastered 50% of the art of conversation beautifully. Speaking, we subconsciously feel, is something that needs to be Trained. We take training courses in Speaking. Listening, on the other hand, is just something you do between opportunities to Speak. It seems the whole world is waiting with palpable impatience for somebody else to finish, so they can leap in with a previous thought. It’s the existential fate that all non-listeners are doomed to live. We’re all trapped in the same room forever, not listening, but waiting eagerly and impatiently for our opportunity to not be listened to. So, in the last few months I’ve made a daily concerted effort to really actively listen. When people talk I now stop what I’m doing. I close my mental laptop. I give myself time to think. I ponder. I pause before I respond. You’re allowed to do all these things when you listen – because the other person has stopped talking and is waiting for your response. It’s awesome. I’m not saying it is not difficult. At times my impatience gets the better of me. But I am getting better. The results couldn’t be more clear. I learn more. I make better decisions. I plan better. Even my Dad has noticed the difference. It’s up there with ‘going to the gym’ or ‘discovering classical music’ as something I wish I’d learned years ago. But at least at 43, I hopefully have some time left to put this new special-power to work. Try it. I hope you take you take up the challenge and learn as much as I have. You don’t need any equipment you don’t already own. You don’t need some kind of ghastly intervention or extreme management training to start you off down the path. In my case, it was my youngest son with a simple question ‘Why don’t grown ups listen to each other much?’ Sometimes having children to teach is the best teacher. Anyway, I think that’s what he said. To be honest, I wasn’t really listening.