Sunday, December 18, 2005

"Did I Just Say That? Part 3: Say Nothing, it's ok

Sometimes I just wish I could have an invisible muzzle. I find myself talking at the most inopportune times and later regretting it. For someone who is too often concerned with what others' perception of her is, I certainly can ruin a first impression with nervous chatter or interrupting. For the most part, I believe that I'm a good communicator whose come a long way at learning to listen and take in what others have to say, but I'm not going to settle for mere improvement; I want to master this. My desire to be a good friend motivates me to be a better listener.
We social butterflies have this tendency to monopolize conversations and keep others from completing a thought or getting a word in edgewise. Although I cannot speak for others, I know that personally I can get so excited about the experience of a conversation that I too often forget to listen to what is being spoken. The person on the other end is irritated if not frustrated that I didn't really listen, I'm embarrassed that I didn't just shut up, and there's an akwardness thereafter. I can't stand knowing that I've missed out on the opportunity to really get to know the person I'm speaking with simply because I didn't keep my mouth shut. Knowing that many people like me want to be more of a blessing to those in their lives than an irritating presence, I've decided to share some things I've observed about myself regarding this matter.
I've cannot think of a time that I've been fully comfortable with silence when in the presence of others. Sure, I enjoy the time before the children wake up in the wee hours of the morning (yes, I'm an irritating morning person) when the only sounds I hear are the swish of the ceiling fan, the cars passing by in the distance, my feet walking across my hardwood floors... But put someone else in the mix, and I just drown in the silence. I'm learning to accept it and even enjoy it, but it is an effort. Personally, I have to practically tell myself before meeting with someone that I'm going to not push conversations that aren't coming naturally.
Here's perhaps one of the most irritating things that I do. I know it's irritating to others because I can hardly stand it when it happens to me. When with a group of people or an individual who are discussing something I'm passionate about, I have a hard time not pulling out my soapbox and taking over the conversation. Sometimes, it's quite an effort to just sit and listen to people I enjoy to be around; at the same time I'm finding my friendships to be more meaningful as I learn to hear what those I'm listening to are passionate about without throwing in my two cents worth of opinionated chatter. Listening without finding it necessary to give unasked-for feedback for some comes naturally; for others it's an effort. For me it's an effort worth making.
Do you ever find yourself interrupted over and over and over again by the same person or people? Well, I've been the interrupter more times than I could possibly count and it's one of the things I am most determined to change. Personally, I'm not offended if someone says, "Gretchen, listen to me. I'm talking, and I don't feel like you're hearing me." I don't know why others interrupt people, but when it comes to me it's typically a combination of nerves and excitement about the conversation. There is something else that I believe plays a big role in my habit of not keeping others from completing their thoughts that I don't believe is a small thing. I come from a family of opinionated people who interrupt or speak just to be heard. There aren't a lot of good listeners in my family; so, from childhood, I'd learned that if you don't interrupt, you'll never be heard. The good fortune I have now is that I have made many wonderful friends and acquaintances who are wonderful listeners. Being listened to is one of the greatest gifts sometimes. Why withhold that kind of blessing from someone you know or want to get to know? I'm going to break this habit and it all starts by telling myself over and over again until it comes naturally, "Gretchen, listen to what______ is saying. Don't say a word until you've heard what they have to say. Be sure you're really heard them before you start rambling."
There's not a doubt in my mind that I'm on my way to being a better listener, but I know it's going to take breaking these bad habits. It's much easier to like the person I see myself becoming as I work on such things as this.

1 Comments:

Blogger Matthew said...

Been thinking about you a lot lately and hoping that you are well....

-Matthew

3:12 PM, May 24, 2007  

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