Most of us are not very good listeners. Our listening skills are being eroded by the constant distraction of smartphones and other Internet connected devices. We may be here physically but our attention is often elsewhere. This is unfortunate as effective listening is a critical skill in building and maintaining healthy relationships.
The key to listening is staying in the moment. How many times have you been introduced to someone and immediately forgotten their name? You haven't actually forgotten their name, you probably never heard it in the first place. Maybe you were thinking of what you were going to say or whether you had a piece of lettuce stuck in your teeth. Our own self interest gets in the way of our ability to connect.
One way to become a better listener is to cultivate a genuine interest in people. There is tremendous value in learning about others, particularly those that we want to build a relationship with. The challenge is letting go of our own egocentric need to continuously promote and express our own thoughts and opinions. The challenge is to really focus our attention on, understand and appreciate, the thoughts and opinions of others.
I'm not writing about listening as an expert on the subject but more from the perspective of having a desire to become a better listener myself. It isn't easy. It requires an active commitment to eliminate internal and external distractions that prevent effective listening. Turn off notifications on your phone, or turn it off completely, when you are in social situations where you wish to listen intently. We cannot as easily switch our internal distractions off but we can commit to listening in a more attentive and non-judgemental manner.
There is no greater gift we can give to others than our attention. It is the foundation upon which all successful relationships are built.