One of the topics Carolyn and I discuss in our presentations about our new book Love’s Way involves Listening. Most of us don’t listen well. And even when we think we are listening, we sometimes fall into one of the following categories:
The Pouncer: This non-listener is waiting for the other speaker to pause just long enough to inject his point into the conversation. The speaker may be in the middle of conveying a thought, but hesitated to take a breath or sip some water. That’s the moment the pouncer has been waiting for: to take charge of the conversation.
The Eye-Roller: You and I may need to plead guilty to this. You know the eye-roller: he’s the fellow who — when the speaker doesn’t see him – rolls his eyes as if to suggest that what the speaker is saying is off the mark, inane, stupid, or worse.
The Nay-Sayer: There’s usually one in every conversation. No matter what a speaker says, the nay-sayer feels compelled to object. Count on her to belittle or refute whatever is being said.
The Fixer: I’m told we men are more likely than women to be ‘fixers.’ Fixers are the listeners who have a solution to every problem they hear about. The speaker may only want to share an incident or vent, but count on the fixer to come up with a solution, even when one isn’t wanted.
The One-Upper: Whatever you have to say, the one-upper has a better, bigger, or more exciting story, example, or solution than you. Another name for the one-upper is “Story-Stealer.“
The Monopolizer: I’m sure you’ve encountered persons who feel they OWN the conversation. They have no interest in anything you have to say and will never ask anything about yourself.
The Interrupter: Before you can complete your first sentence, the Interrupter has something to contribute. I know I’ve been guilty of this. Maybe some of you out there share my shame.
And finally, there’s the Multi-Tasker: You’re in the middle of a sentence and out pops the listener’s cell-phone. The Multi-Tasker pretends to be listening to you but his gaze drops to his latest text or tweet. So much for a genuine conversation.
Do we listen to reply, or to understand? Whenever conversing with someone, that should be the question we ask… ourselves.
Part II will suggest Directions for Dialogue.