There has been a lot of noise lately. A lot of it coming from me. I’ve spent the past 8 months of my life talking. Talking about projects. Talking about community. Talking about sustainability. I present training, facilitate meetings, give information and teach new skills both in my professional and my personal life.
I’ve been talking so much I’m sick of my own voice.
Sometimes when I am at work I work with young people to create strong support plans to help them achieve the goals they have for their future. The most important thing to successfully create a support plan with a young person is to listen. It’s not my time to talk. My opinions are irrelevant. My stories are unimportant. The only important story is their own, the only important voice is theirs. My job is to shut my mouth, to sit and to listen. To listen actively, not just to figure out how to respond. My job is to listen purely to understand. To understand what it is to be that person, right now. To understand how they feel about what is going on in their lives, to understand what they want to do about that. And only when I understand can I truly help them fill in the gap. The gap between what their life looks like now, and what they want their life to be.
Listening is an art that is often forgotten in this fast paced world. We live in a world full of people who believe they are experts in everything, people who present themselves to the world as if they have nothing more to learn.
We are often too busy to truly listen to each other, too busy formulating a response, to busy trying to capture the perfect picture to share on social media. Too busy trying to do the next thing, to get to the next place, to achieve the next goal to truly listen. To distracted to just put everything down and listen to another human being. To our friends. To our kids. To the lady in the supermarket who is having a shit of a day and just needs to tell someone about it. As mothers we are often too busy to listen to each others opinions, instead quickly arguing our own views. We are too busy to listen to the call for help that sits underneath someone expressing how difficult something is for then.
When we don’t listen. How do we connect? What do we learn?
When you talk, you are only repeating what you know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.
– Dalai Lama
A lot of conversations I have these days are with people who are preparing to respond before I’ve even finished a sentence. I find I do the same from time to time. I get so caught up in the point I’m trying to make that I forget that the real understanding comes from truly listening to what the other person has to say. Sometimes I forget what I am truly trying to achieve.
Sometimes I forget to listen to the point that I can learn from the person that I am talking to, so that I can understand, so that we can truly connect. We are all students and we are all teachers. No matter how much I know, I am acutely aware of how much there still is to learn – not just about the world or about skills or about theory – but about people… the most important ‘thing’ of all.
To truly connect, maybe the only thing we really need to do, is to listen. We might be surprised by what we truly hear.