I remember when my children were small and I wanted to tell them something important. They’d be focused on other things and not paying attention. In order to have them hear me, I’d start by saying, “Look at me.” Once I had their visual attention they could hear me much better.
Come to think of it, this is still the case in attempting to communicate with anyone distracted by television, cell phones or other electronics. They will respond as if they know what I said but the message is forgotten as soon as I walk away.
It is up to me to ensure my words are heard and understood. I can’t assume this is the case if I haven’t confirmed it.
An example of this came in a conversation in which one man said, “I always listen; I just don’t always hear.” Isn’t that interesting? He would listen to what was said, but if he didn’t think the subject matter was of importance to him, didn’t actually take it in. He could be looking directly at the person speaking and still not be paying attention.
I confess to occasionally allowing my mind to wander when someone is speaking to me. Sometimes I’m formulating a response to them and others I’m going through a mental to-do list. When either of these happens I am not giving the conversation the undivided attention it deserves. It takes a conscious effort to be a good listener.
It’s no accident that the words listen and silent are made up of the same six letters. In order to really listen and hear what is being said, I need to be silent. Not just vocally, but also to silence and focus my mind. Only then will I truly hear you.