Listening ain’t easy. Thanks to modern conveniences, we’ve all got free one-way tickets aboard the Passive Express to Lazyville. Our speech reflects our preference for a tuned-out, visual experience. For example, a concertgoer reports they “saw” a band play. So who listened to the music?
The real kernel of wisdom here is in active vs. passive living. This is about becoming the maestro of your life instead of blaming a lack of rehearsal. The show must, and does, go on. It may seem unlikely that a shift as simple as active listening can reshape your life — but it can. I firmly believe that developing a mindful listening habit can help you uncover new sides of people you’ve known your whole life, including yourself.
So. Are you a hearer or a listener? Be honest.
Take this test: In a single day, count how many times you experience that moment in conversation where you have absolutely no idea what your friend is talking about. What were we just talking about? It started with an M. Was it money? Mommies? Monkeys? If the number tracks higher than five, you are a total hearer.
Fortunately, you can be saved. Follow these simple steps:
- Accept that you are a hearer.
- Put your phone away. All the way away.
- Get up right now—I don’t care if GIRLS is starting!
- Find a real person, start a conversation and keep it going using only questions.
When you listen to others, they listen back. That’s a true dialogue and it’s how most everything worthwhile gets done in our world.
There is, however, one group you should never listen to: the haters. Giving those backseat drivers the time of day will only stifle and paralyze your creative, loving self. You should instead seek the opinions of people you respect and trust. Thankfully, even though we can’t choose what we others say (innovation idea: earlids), we can choose how we consume it. So, whom will you listen to?
Jonathan Een Newton is a man with a plan—though he’s still working out the details. He enjoys composing for cello and guitar, throat singing in zany places, and vagabonding when he has time to kill. However, he’d prefer not to kill time and would much rather let it live.