January never really feels like a new year to me. Hunkering down in the cold, it feels more like the middle of a hibernation period than a time for change. This, right now, is when there’s a buzz in the air, when it feels like everyone is turning over a new leaf.
I’m sure it has a lot to do with the fact that for 20 years, every fall was the start of a new school year–new classes, new friends, new routines. And even now, six years since my last first day of school, the signs of a new start are all around. Although instead of commiserating with fellow students, it’s with my friends and family who are parents and teachers.
So in the spirit of starting fresh, and because I didn’t really have a resolution for 2015, I’m going to spend this month fine tuning some personal goals. Each week I will pick something I want to work on, and that will be my focus. This week, I’m starting with a skill that seems so simple, but is much trickier in practice; I’m working on learning to listen.
You see, I work in an industry that often requires urgent and up-to-the-minute information to be passed along, and that often requires cutting off whomever in mid-sentence to do it. And I was raised in a family filled with outgoing and opinionated people. We are a lovely, kindhearted bunch; we just like to participate. Put these two things together, and it can hardly be considered my fault that I’ve evolved into a well-intentioned rambler with a horrible habit of interrupting. (This habit drives my boyfriend nuts, by the way.)
Recently, I started trying to be mindful of how often I’m cutting off people in conversations. Spoiler alert: it is a lot. I interrupt my coworkers, my family, my friends, and of course, my aforementioned boyfriend. I’m now trying to take that a step further, and be mindful of even the urge to jump in when someone’s talking. (It’s slow going.)
But in all these efforts to watch out for listening faux pas, I’ve noticed something else: I’m getting interrupted a whole lot too. I’ve found myself getting annoyed when people cut me off, trying to answer a question I wasn’t asking or not even waiting long enough to hear my point. Turns out, it’s every man for himself out there!
I love the Stephen R. Covey quote, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” That is the ultimate goal this week–approach conversation as a two-way street where I have as much to learn as I have to share.
Any tips from good listeners out there?