In today’s world, when we are being pulled in so many directions, continually responding to real and perceived demands on our time and energies, listening is rapidly becoming a lost art.  In addition, our attachment or addiction to our “devices” pulls us away from real interaction with other people, even as we are e-mailing, texting, tweeting or spending time on Facebook or Instagram. We are interacting in a virtual world, with diminished face-to-face communication.

Communicating by e-mail, text, or social media all encourage the practice of sending one dimensional messages–non-verbal communication disappears. We are so pressed for time, we seek to make our communications brief, more expedient. We relinquish the opportunity to “see and hear” who is behind our interactions in the service of saving time.

Not only does this give rise to more misinterpretations, it’s a breeding ground for conflict as well as disconnection, which ends up consuming more time. Even when the person on the other end is  someone you have known for a long time, or are in a close relationship with,  you are missing out on the subtleties of how that person is truly feeling in the  moment, and how they are evolving as an individual. None of this is good for building and nurturing relationships.

Checking out someone’s recent photos on Facebook or Instagram does little to let you know what was behind the photo, what was the value of the event, how they were feeling, and what else was going on around the event. Was the smile really genuine, or just for the camera? Did they really want to be there, or would they have rather been doing something else?

A snapshot by definition is capturing a moment–or less in time. It doesn’t give you much information or help you to learn more about that person. How rewarding is it for you–or them to base a good part of your contact with them on photos or 140 Twitter characters, or even a brief text message?  Does it inspire you to want to spend more time with them?

Now imagine you are physically present with that person–over a meal, a walk, or just sitting together in your living room or kitchen–and your devices are nowhere within visual or ringtone distance. How is that experience different for you?  What do you learn, what feelings do you have that affect the quality of your relationship?

Add to this experience your willingness to listen.. You ask questions for clarification, to learn about how the other person is feeling, what more you would like to know. You summarize or paraphrase what they are saying–(this practice alone helps to avoid misunderstandings, conflict, and erroneous assumptions). How would that feel to you if you are on the receiving end?

Is making a good impression on others important to you?  Are you someone who tries to think of clever or smart things to say?  At what point do you stop listening because you are focusing on how you will respond to what the other person is saying?

Too many of us assume we need to say something clever in order to be thought well of. However, it’s being an interested listener that will make the best impression on others. And, it relieves you of the energy and time spent figuring out what to say.  When you show genuine interest in someone else, it’s the best compliment you can give. It is one of the best ways to build rapport and trust, to make the other person feel valued and accepted. That is what will create more positive regard for you!  How much is that worth to you? 

Listening with an open mind and heart is the best way to generate a similar response from another person, for the most part. There are exceptions–for example, someone who is so self-absorbed they are unable to reciprocate.Think about how you feel when someone shows a genuine interest in listening to you. How do you then feel about yourself and the person who is doing the listening?  What effect does it have on your relationship?

You don’t need to do this with everyone–though it would be good practice. What about the people and relationships that matter to you, whether relative, friend, or business associate? Are you so focused on getting things  done, moving on to the next task or event, that you lose sight of nurturing the relationships  you value?  In the end, what will you remember and treasure the most–the task you completed  or the connection you have made, saved and improved?

If you’d like more specific ways to listen and nurture your relationships, contact me and I will send you some tip sheets.