FastCompany: Using Empathic Listening to Collaborate.
I've had the same experience, on both sides. I grew up in a family where everyone was struggling to be heard. So you held the floor for a moment, before someone used something you said to go right into what they wanted to be heard about. There was probably almost no actual listening going on. As a result we all had a very poor idea of who the other people were, what motivated them, what they were trying to be heard on.
When I was in my forties I made a concerted effort, with help, to go through as much of this as I could. And I was lucky that my parents were still alive so I could make a point of listening to them, to really understand -- whatever it is they wanted me to understand.
Real listening is a secret technique for being friends with children. No one listens to them, even though they are complete emotional people after age four or so, with aspirations, ideas, interests, and a thirst for knowledge and desire for understanding. Showing a child that you respect her or him is a way to help that new person feel respect for themselves. In a very important way you are making the world a better place. In a human-sized way.
If you want, try an exercise. With a close friend or family member, or a complete stranger (probably the same thing), sit at a table, or on the floor, facing each other. In a quiet place. Then take turns talking, five minutes at a time. When the other person is talking, don't say anything. Don't nod your head. Don't smile or give them a hug. Look straight ahead. Don't look up or down, to the side, behind you. Don't cry, show sympathy or fear. You may have all these feelings, but you may not demonstrate them. You are here for one purpose only -- to listen to the other person.
You'll find it's very hard to do, on both sides. To really hold the floor talking about yourself for five minutes, knowing the other person is hearing every word you're saying, and really absorbing it. For some people just this experience can be transformative. Listen to the actual words the other person is saying, and struggle to take them at face value, to really understand what they're saying.
That's why when I say "Thanks for listening" I"m giving you my deepest form of gratitude. Because life, in a sense, is all about being heard. Once you've been heard, it's then time to find new meaning for your existence.
This week might be the best time of year to do it. It's dark, the weather is probably not that great, what else do you have to do. And we're spending time with people we're close to. All the buttons are being pressed. Try getting through it by doing a little listening.