A lady I once volunteered with told me that she believed people really didn't listen to each other. She said that they were just waiting for the moment where they could turn the conversation back to themselves. I actually knew someone who would actually start mouthing or lip syncing portions of what they were going to say next while I was talking. Having minored in communication, as well as having taken workshops and retreats on the topic, I can say my volunteer buddy was just about right. People often don't truly listen but rather relate words they are hearing back through their own experience. Sometimes people are selfish, but also I think this happens more often when we just don't know what to say to someone's story. At a loss for words or scared to enter their emotions, we share our own story in an attempt to show "I can relate to you". However, this often comes off to the other person like what they shared just got glazed over by your story. As well, it is a dangerous path to go on in relating to someone else's story by immediately sharing our own because we are innately much more enthusiastic and focused on our own story. Therefore, this route lends itself to making the other person invalidated.
Besides the awesome video below about listening that may surprise you, I have some tips on the subject. I call them the 3 R's of listening.
1. Be Remarkable. Be remarkable by asking questions. Be curious about the person sharing something their life or day with you--even if you have to "fake it till you make it". You can do this by asking questions about what they just said. Don't be afraid to even say that you missed a part of what they were saying. It is the best way to not only show you are interested but also that you are attempting to not make assumptions. You may be surprised how many assumptions you were making when you do. In turn, they will find you to be remarkable for asking!
2. Revisit. Revisit what seems important to the other person on what they said. Underscore or highlight the main parts of what they said and you can ask them about how that must have felt for them. This also helps when we don't know what to say or are suddenly taken back by emotion or even the lack there of in ourselves. It helps us to dig deeper with them and reconnect
3. Remind. We all have things going on in our lives and sometimes it is hard to listen. Other times the person really annoys us but we work very close together. In these times, it is good to remind ourselves that this moment of practicing active listening requires a momentary sacrifice. We will have our "own" time and our own "shares" again too. You never know what you might miss for yourself by not truly listening to someone else, even those that might be slightly annoying.
Talk about listening to someone annoying, listening to this lady's store from a Ted Talk, I was impressed with what she had to say about listening. You'll also learn what "squint with your ears" means! :-)
That is...if you are listening!