“God! You need to learn how to listen!” is something I have shouted over my girlfriend’s voice more times than I care to admit. Listening, like love, is something I should only expect to receive as much as I am willing to give and I shouldn’t expect it to last very long when I start shouting. At some point in my adult life, when it was no longer socially acceptable to put my hands over my ears and chant, “Lalalala,” I decided reevaluate how well I listen.
I believed I was a good listener, as demonstrated by the first line of every dating profile I have ever filled out. But listening, like sex, is something I believed I was great at until I was forced to confront legitimate feedback.
I fall into the same trap as many others, believing I am a good listener because sometimes it comes easily. When I am well rested and in a good mood, I am the best listener of all time. Likewise, even if I am in a bad mood and Jennifer Love Hewitt, Brad Pitt, or Neil deGrasse Tyson, (my female, male, and science crushes respectively) were to start speaking to me, I would immediately become the best listener in the world. The mark of a truly good listener is someone who can practice active listening with thoughtfulness and compassion, even when it’s the last thing you feel like doing. Can I respect your worldview when I feel my rights are being infringed upon? Can I help make you whole while I am falling to pieces myself? Can I make you feel heard when all I want to do is shout?
So why do I feel the the need to fight my instinct to make myself heard, dig in my heels, and satisfy my desire to be the most important person in the world? There are two reasons and the first is for myself. Truly listening is the only way I know how to open up to something new. New ideas and experiences are an endless supply of challenge and excitement. The second is for others. Listening is one of the best gifts you can give a person because finally being heard is one of the greatest reliefs in human existence. The evidence: when I post online, of course there is the inherent joy of writing, but the truly addicting aspect is seeing how many people ‘like’ what I have written. There is value in sharing what I have to say but the truly juicy nectar in being heard.
As I venture further into a committed relationship, and as we all navigate this new political climate, I feel compelled to become a better listener. Listening connects us and brings us together. Like I mentioned before, I can only expect you to listen to me as much as I am willing to listen to you, and I desperately want you to listen to me. So please, be a good listener and let me know if you heard anything in this post.