Are you listening?

The polite end of story pause has all but disappeared in our world. One person barely has enough time for a breath after a sentence, before the next person picks up where they left off. And if there is a break in any conversation, it’s usually followed quickly by someone side whispering “awkward” in order to re-establish the “order” that is constant communication. But what ever happened to just listening? We live in a world of “one-ups-manship,” where one never wants to be the first to tell a story in a group, because in all likelihood SOMEONE else has a better one.

Sometimes as I’m listening to a story I suddenly find myself tuning out as I silently develop my response. Indeed, before my friend even finishes speaking, I already have my scripted response at the ready. Suddenly I realize I am guilty of the very thing I despise myself—not listening.

People need to listen more. Listening could solve so many world problems (not to mention locker room brawls). There’s this quote out there that I love:

“Oh, I’m sorry…Did the middle of my sentence interrupt the beginning of yours?”

How sad but true is that statement? I can’t tell you how many times I am in the middle of my sentence, only to be abruptly cut off by someone else inserting their opinion. Why do they do it? I have several theories.

Sometimes the interruption comes from a place of support and allegiance. You’ll state your opinion and before you finish someone jumps in to say “I agree entirely.” While their affirmation is appreciated, it would be JUST as appreciated, if not more so, if it came at the completion of the original statement. Their support is coming from a good place, but somehow the original speaker still feels slighted.

Sometimes the sentence-cutter has a conflicting opinion and simply wants to make sure their thoughts are heard equally. All this type of interruption does, however, is create conflict. The first speaker feels undercut (rightfully so), and will likely retaliate but dishing an interruption right back. So begins the exchange of short quips back and forth until the original discussion topic is complete forgotten and a brawl breaks lose. Ok, maybe a brawl is not ALWAYS involved, but the original intent behind the conversation is lost entirely.

The truth of the matter is that until someone finishes their thought, you really DON’T know exactly what they are going to say. They could make an entire statement only to finish with “or at least that’s what so and so thinks, but I completely disagree.” All of a sudden your rebuttal looks REALLY ill planned huh?

As I said before, I am a guilty party as well. Usually I intend for my interruptions to be taken as a sign of support, but in reality, a head nod could probably more politely deliver that same message. I want someone to absorb what I’m saying and sharing. I want them to understand my thoughts and reasoning. I want them to listen. If I expect that from my friends and family, it’s about time I really focus on my listening as well.


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