I have been, for most of my life, a stubborn person. It has only been recently (and by that I mean in the last 5-6 years) that I have really, truly learned to LISTEN to other people. To hear not only what they're saying, but to also hear what they mean, what they want and what they're afraid of. This has been a skill I've developing for over a decade when I discovered how poor of a listener I really was.
I had a friend tell me a while back that I had to start being silent more often. At first, I was offended. I had valuable input! I had life experience that I could share and help people! Why couldn't I contribute to the ongoing conversation?
My friend put it to me very simply by saying, "Because, Angela, you spend the first half of the conversation thinking about what you are going to say and the second half thinking about what you should have said. You aren't really listening."
My friend was right. I couldn't argue the point. I sucked at listening. And I'll be honest. Sometimes, in casual situations, I still do.
I met someone at a networking event recently who taught me a very helpful acronym:
WAIT = Why Am I Talking?
It's brilliant. And it reinforces what I've been trying to train myself to do for a long time now. To stop before I speak and consider whether or not what I am about to say will actually add to the conversation. I have been called "quiet" before. I've also been called "chatty". I guess it just depends on the mood I'm in and the company I'm with.
I have found myself lately striking up more conversations with people everywhere I go. I've been craving the connection and enjoying the experience. I am, for all intents and purposes, an introvert. I like my alone time, my down time, my reading and knitting time. My boyfriend and I can sit together on the couch and not say anything and it's great. We bask in the silence.
But I've been morphing into this social person lately. I've been attending networking events (those who know me will undoubtedly need to pick their jaws up off the floor at this point). When I meet new people, I ask them strings of questions so that I can hear about their lives, their experiences, their opinions. I've been reaching out to old friends that I haven't heard from in a while and then listening, really listening to what's happening in their lives. I'm posting less on Facebook, but reading more of the posts that others are publishing.
And I'm listening. And learning. And, honestly, I'm growing. It's an art, this whole listening business. And it is an art that requires practice to master.
For an introvert, all this connection and hustle and bustle can be exhausting. But it is so worth it. When was the last time you really listened to someone else? When was the last time you truly felt Heard?