A few years back, I left the academic world in search of a living wage. It was somewhat hard to adjust to the fact that in the real world, my dope communication skills don't seem to matter very much in my everyday interactions. In fact, I feel increasingly irritated by what seems like a breakdown in basic communication skills, period. I am particularly bothered by the fact that folks interrupt each other ALL.THE.TIME.
My sensitivity to this problem is undoubtedly heightened because I know that I am capable of being a skilled communicator, and I don't feel like I am often given a chance to convey an entire thought in a conversation. It's intensely frustrating to deal with constant interruptions. Yet, it still happens, practically every day. Consider this to be a gentle reminder that interrupting someone makes them feel insignificant, belittled, and grumpy (to put it mildly). If that's not your goal in everyday conversations, then here are three helpful take-aways about how to be a better listener:
- Keep eye contact. Interruptions are not only verbal. Checking your phone, flipping through a magazine, or glancing at your computer/TV can all be perceived as cues that you aren't interested in your chat.
- Listen without being a sentence-grabber. This is one of my top pet peeves - the people who won't even let me finish a sentence without jumping ahead to guess the ending. "So then I went to..." "The CIRCUS!!!" "No... the doctor..." Thanks for listening, pal.
- Recognize that people think and speak at different speeds. If someone seems stuck in the minutiae of their story, deal with it. Take a deep breath and soak in the details. It's what thoughtful listeners do.