I have a nasty habit of not listening when others talk. It’s a huge problem that affects not only my personal relationships, but my work performance. There’s nothing worse than being called on in a meeting and not being able to answer intelligently because you’re completely lost.
For me it’s a two pronged problem:
- I have trouble keeping my mind from wandering. I’m either rehearsing my response in my head or thinking about my own things.
- I don’t care what the other person is talking about and am just putting in my time, waiting until we get back to talking about me.
I have been dealing with #1 by using the mindfulness strategy of gently bringing my mind back to the present when I feel it wandering, without self-judgement. This does help.
For #2, I read somewhere that to increase your empathy you should have at least one conversation a week with someone you don’t know that goes beyond small talk.
I try to allot at least 10 minutes for this, and make a conscious point not to talk about myself in these conversations. If I have something we can relate on I will share, but my rule for these conversations is 70/30 talking about them vs. me.
Simple practice helps a lot. It’s a habit like anything else. I find that when I actually am hearing what the other person is saying, I tend to naturally become more interested and engaged.
I actually enjoy listening to others now, a lot more than I did before. I still have to consciously remind myself a lot though and keep up with the practice, or I slip back into old patterns.
Do you have this problem? What do you do to help with it?