If you’re like me, I have an uncanny ability to listen to so many things at the same time I
don’t really hear any of them. Between the music, the phone, the TV, the computer and
whatever voices I have in my head (the healthy kind :)), I can barely focus on another
person. I notice it most when I ride my bike without my music. I hear the birds, I hear
kids playing, I am much more aware of where the cars are around me and my other
senses seem to be more alert. Somehow, when I am listening to music my sense of smell
and vision are both slightly diminished. I don’t believe I have a smell or vision problem,
I believe my senses and my mind can only focus effectively on one thing at a time.
I am afraid we have lost the art of listening – assuming we had it at some point. Listening
takes concentration and concentration takes minimal distraction. I see way too many
couples and families not prioritize “listening” to each other. They are so busy with
checking voicemail, email, the latest score on the TV that they are unable to really listen
to their loved one. When we multi-task we communicate to our spouse or to our children
that they are on equal level with whatever else we are doing. How sad is that? Are our
kids just as important as our email? Is our spouse on the same level as the football game?
Depends on the game – okay bad joke. No, our spouse and our kids are a lot more
important than these other things. So prioritize them.
If you are watching a game or doing something that you made plans to do, communicate
to your spouse or child that you would love to listen to them, after your activity. Ask
them if there is a time later that day that the two of you can connect. Don’t just ignore
them or shrug them off.
In order to be a good listener one needs to be able to read between the lines. Words are
only part of the message. Body language and tone communicate a lot more about what
someone is feeling. If you are distracted by something else, it will be difficult to pick up
on those subtleties. Be intentional in your listening and practice being present.