Most of us have heard about active listening and theoretically practice it (at least most of the time/some of the time/on rare occasions). As a reminder, active listening is where you make a concerted effort to pay attention to what someone is saying and try to understand what message they’re trying to convey.
As an HR Consultant, I’ve learned how important it is to truly hear what people are trying to say to me and how much it can help in resolving conflicts between people. So why is it still so hard at times?
When talking with friends and colleagues, it’s easier to understand what they’re telling us. We know these people; we have some sort of relationship established; we have at least a little insight into their personalities and where they’re coming from.
But when it comes to a stranger or, even “worse,” someone with opposing viewpoints, especially when it’s something we’re passionate about, it can be really hard to “hear” them. I certainly struggle with that and can find myself working on my “rebuttal” mentally while they’re still talking. How much of their message am I missing and would it make a difference?
There are so many different conflicts in today’s world and so many ways we can find to differentiate ourselves, but we really need to get back to the point where we are still willing to listen to each other. It’s so easy to put ourselves in different “camps” where we feel more aligned. But honestly, there are probably few individuals who believe everything we believe—and that’s a good thing if we’re open to learning from each other.
We don’t have to agree, by any means, and we can be passionate and on opposite sides of an issue. But I’d like people to hear me when I express my reasoning and I’ll try and do a better job of hearing them on theirs. Maybe we can each learn something new or at least do a better job in feeling some sort of sympathy or understanding for each other.
Most of us want to live in peace, help our children grow up to be happy and health, and find positive meaning in this world. Maybe if we actively listen to each other, we can get closer to that reality.