By: Jessica Scire, Guest Blogger
Image from uptownmagazine.com
Do you listen to others speak? No, I mean like really listen. I’m not talking nodding and “Mmhmm-ing” them to death as they speak. I’m talking full-focused, totally concerned, zipped lips, and 100% listening. Up until recently, I would be lying if I said I was a true listener. Maybe you are a great listener, however, maybe you think you are, like I did.
It wasn’t until a few months back when I started thinking about the art of listening. I was talking to my life coach about a current situation (it doesn’t matter what it was about) and she didn’t say anything for a full five minutes until I was finished speaking. It felt so unnatural, so awkward having her not say anything back to me as I spoke. Thoughts bombarded me, what is she thinking? Am I making sense? What’s wrong with what I’m saying? After I finished venting, she still didn’t say anything for a good five seconds. Those felt like the longest five seconds of my life. Say something! I thought. It wasn’t until later I realized that she was doing the most natural thing of all: she was listening to me as a fellow human being, a person on this earth whose feelings and emotions were just as precious as hers or anyone else’s. I deserved someone to listen to me.
Maybe it is society or the unconscious behaviors that my family modeled for me in which I developed my inadequate listening skills: how I was quick to jump in with how I related to what someone else was saying, how I would handle their experience, how I would feel about their experience. There’s too many I’s, isn’t there? No one asked for my opinion, they asked for a listener. How many people do you know that always offer their opinion or talk about how they had the same experience when you share a sentiment? When someone values you enough to vent and express their feelings to you, you must respect them enough in return to listen. Don’t give your opinion unless it is asked. Keep the conversation about them. Pay attention to what they are saying, what they are not saying, and how their body language looks. You can gather a lot of information from just not speaking and taking it all in, and that creates a great friend, genuine feedback, and a safe space for that person’s emotions to be validated and appreciated. You may not always agree with someone, but always keep in mind that more times than not, there isn’t always a right or wrong, its not always black and white. While you’re listening, it’s especially not about you.
So I thank my life coach for not only helping me with life’s problems, but also being a woman I cherish dearly who has taught me to be aware and how to listen, who has opened my eyes to the differences in this world and how all of them are beautiful because they are unique and someone’s own. In turn, I ask you to do this: reflect on your listening skills. Do you quickly jump in the conversation to offer your ideas or how it relates to you? Or do you sit back and genuinely listen with unbiased thoughts and appreciativeness? Practice the art of listening; it generates thoughtful conversation, treasured relationships, and a fresh gratitude for life.
Jessica Scire is a 26-year-old woman living in the Boston area. She teaches Pre-K in Boston, MA and is currently working towards her M.Ed. Jess is a co-leader of the I AM THAT GIRL: Boston Chapter. She loves spending time with her family and friends, reading, laughing, playing with her dog, going for walks, and eating ice cream.