I’m just going to come out and say it—you can’t spend as much time in your head as I do without becoming a little self-absorbed. I’ve come to understand this about myself, and I’ve learned to accept it. Because of that, I began to make a conscience effort to be more aware of other people’s thoughts and feelings. What I have found is that I’m not nearly the only person suffering from the same affliction.
It really kind of blew my mind how many people are so wrapped up in their own thoughts that they don’t even realize that they are just waiting to speak instead of actually listening to the person talking to them. This happens in conversations all across the land, casual and professional alike. We’ve almost become a society that has to always “one-up” each other.
If I tell my friend that I saw an iguana roaming around the streets, he’s going to tell me that he saw Godzilla running amok downtown. He doesn’t even take the time to process what I’m telling him long enough to even formulate a follow up question like “What the hell is an iguana doing roaming around the streets of Atlanta?!?” before he’s telling me his story.
Now, I’m a fairly quick-witted fellow and I have the tendency to whip out a retort mid-drift with the best of them, but I have been practicing being a more active listener. I realized that by just waiting to speak or interrupting their flow with a snappy retort, I am in fact stealing their thunder. It’s not a purposeful thing, but it’s something worth noting. I began to notice the look on people’s faces when I do it. I can see the hurt and resentment in their eyes; they are perplexed and confused, but they never say anything about it.
So here I am speaking for all the voices that go unheard. I hear you, and I’m adding it to my list of social conditions that need to be redeemed. Everyone has a story that’s worth hearing, but they must be given a chance to tell it. It’s not always easy to sit back and listen, especially when you have a mind that moves 100 MPH. Yes, sometimes people will talk at an excruciatingly slow pace or add so many unnecessary details that you might be doing the silent scream in your head—but we must learn to quiet the voice inside and just listen.
And just like I mentioned before, I started asking them a follow up question, then actually listening to their answer—fancy that! I started to see a change in the people that my big personality has always overshadowed. They seemed more relaxed around me instead of bracing for the next thing coming out of my mouth. I saw them light up when they got to deliver their own punch-line, and I felt more connected to them in ways that I hadn’t imagined.
This silver-tongued devil with the gift of gab has learned a valuable lesson, and it’s quite simple—shut up and listen for a change. It’s not going to happen overnight, but try it out. Make an effort one conversation at a time to be a better listener, and you just might be amazed at what you learn…
Now that he has defeated Godzilla, Chris Derrick is on his way to set some iguanas free to wreak havoc in the city!