Wednesday, February 26, 2014

5 Suggestions for Better Listening

Ahhhh!  Balance has been restored.

This is not a nod to any Star Wars moment (which would be cool) but a proclamation that I have created some space to write.  Um...when something "writable" and "sharable" crosses my mind.

I love commercials.  There was a time when commercials where viewed as a necessary evil and an impatiently endured interruption of Gilligan's Island (loved that show-yes, the professor should have simply built a boat).  However, after studying communication in college, I have become a student and somewhat obnoxious critique of the what, how and why of commercial advertisement.  I give most commercials a small window of chance to grab my attention before I move channels quickly or complete a task during the break.  My attention was grabbed recently by a quality commercial (more of a short film) that featured a country classic and too close to home message from  Before continuing, check it out at

Why did that particular commercial make a connection with me?  Confession time. Even though I try, all too often I check, text, reply and/or talk on my phone at the expense of the life and "people" going on around me (Ahhh...that felt good getting off my chest).  At times, I rationalize the need to be so connected.  To be honest, most of the communication could wait until the life and people around me received the first fruits (Bible term for the best we have) of my attention.

Here are some ways I am practicing better listening with my wife, family and friends:
  • Leave the phones (and devices) at home.   If I am short period of time with my wife, family or friends, leave your phone at home.  Example, our family often makes a "coke and fries" run in the evening.  The only rule is there are no phones, devices allowed.  It is a good way to force communication and/or shared experience of loud radio-dancing-craziness.  And yes, sometimes such outings are awkward silence sulking.  Even so, commit to times your leave the phones and devices at home!
  • Leave the phones (and devices) in the car.  If you are meeting someone for lunch or supper or (fill in the blank), leave your phone in the car!  Be fully present (BTW:  your kids will notice the sacrifice).
  • Dude, fight SMA (Social Media Addiction).  So many are losing present, enjoyable and life-changing moments because they have their heads in screens and hands on keys!  You would loved to think it is an adolescent issue in which students are battling in the arena of "likes" and "dislikes" to bolster a sense of self.  However, it has become a humanity issue.  What is a great avenue of international connection (I am actually a fan of social media) has the potential of becoming a preoccupation and often voyeuristic consumer of time.  My advice, enjoy whatever moment you are in deeply and THEN hit your favorite social media outlet. 
  • Expect and model focused attention.  When talking with your spouse, family and friends be fully present.  That is, look in the eyes and notice the words, tone and expression of what is being communicated.  Fact, even though your student (or spouse) will claim to be a "multitasker" who is capable of simultaneous live and cyber conversation, they really can't with fully present, honor giving attention.  I am not advocating throwing phones in sinks, but an expectation and modeling of fully present listening and talking is a must for relationship development.
  • Ask the hard question.  If you really want to know if you are "too connected" and your listening is suffering as a result, ask your spouse, family and friends what they think and listen to their response.  

What ways are you practicing better communication with your spouse, family and friends?