Active listening is important.

I recently read a study on how people actually feel about smartphone use during meetings. (You can read it here: Not just business meetings, but people sitting and talking to one another in a general attentive manner. Rather, where we would assume people are attentive. Across the board, and across the generations, people felt disrespected when the phone was out. Some offices have established policies on this. Many households have done the same. “First person to touch their phone during the meal pays the bill!” This could go into the discussion of emotional intelligence, and how aware we are of our impact on those around us. Especially when it comes to being heard in a respectful manner.

But our brains get bored with our surroundings.

I think of how often I am describing a specific order of events, or detailing a story, and the listener interrupts to complete the list.

This can be endearing if it’s a bunch of friends remembering an awesome time together.

That can also be irritating if you are a mutual friend with this group hearing half details as everyone laughs through a list of interruptions and gestures that signify moments shared.

We all do it, and we all grin through it when it happens to us.

I hate it when it happens at a place like a busy coffee shop. The person working the till wants to look capable and aware, so as they quickly make a mental note of your details, they interrupt with what they think you said. It sounds right, until they place the order. Yeah, yeah, yeah…

And it’s completely the opposite.

I had that scenario happen recently and the person realized it after they hit print on the receipt. I had asked for a specific action on the receipt, and speculated that he did not listen to what I said. I politely asked if he just did exactly what I did not want him to do. We had a moment, and yes, I was polite. He asked if I wanted him to redo everything, but for the sake of everyone behind me, I said no. He looked embarrassed, and I did my best to make sure he understood it was not a big deal.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

That’s one of my favourites, because it speaks directly to my own weaknesses. What I hear, what I want to say, and putting me first. Parenting can be plagued with these moments, and we wonder why our kids develop bad emotional and communicative habits. Marriages are filled with them because we know each other so well that somehow have permission to treat the other person like crap, because we are used to them. And they should know how irritating they are by now, right? (Or is it that you are a self-centred prig who gets irritated regardless? I can never get those straight.) Anyone else in community can be added to this list, including the guy at the coffee shop or grocery store. We expect more of the other when we think only of their actions towards us, and not how we affect them inversely.

Watch how often you fall for the ease of the “yeah, yeah, yeahs”. You might surprise yourself.


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