One of the things I’ve always struggled with is listening. I think quickly, sometimes too quickly, and there have been more times than I care to admit that my mind goes on journeys while engaging in conversation. It’s not that I’m disinterested in the conversation – it’s just that I take what the person is saying and let my mind go off on the sparks, connections and links it wants to make. And then before you know it, I’m six miles away from the conversation and coming back to it takes more mental gymnastics to cover my mental detour and to rebuild my connection with my conversation partner.
I’ve worked hard at improving in this area, paying particular focus on listening with my eyes and ears and I’m always looking for tips and techniques to build this skill. So, I was intrigued by this essay in the New York Times by Kate Murphy, author of a book You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters. Murphy shares the findings of her conversations with expert listeners such as CIA agents and focus group moderators. The article is rife with suggestions on how to be a better listener and with some startling statements about the ramifications of not listening well. None made more impact than Ms Hudson’s closing line “…to listen poorly, selectively or not at all limits your understanding of the world and prevents you from becoming the best you can be.”
And so on this night on this night before the first day of BASAM classes in 2020, I make my new quarter pledge to focus 100% on every conversation I have. I further ask any of my conversation partners to call me on it if they see my mind starting to take out its passport for its journey to other places.