January 8, 2015

Listening is a great skill. It doesn’t come easy for many of us, and I’ve learned that I struggle with being an engaged listener. It’s not that I’m not interested to hear what someone has to say, but more that I spent many years living with just my own voice, and inside of my head, for much of the day and I still find myself getting caught up in the thoughts that accompany listening or in interrupting because of the excitement of conversation. It’s been years since I was a stay home mom, but it’s something I still struggle with.

I stayed home with Cole for the first seven or eight years of his life before getting back into the work force. Having a non-verbal child, and being around the silence, made me a very chatty mom. I talked to Cole constantly and responded in kind. The difficulty of that is that the reciprocal aspect of conversation disappeared from my daytime life. It’s hard to listen when you’re playing both roles. At least, for me it was.

I have trouble with interrupting as I’ve mentioned. I really do work on it but sometimes I catch myself talking over a friend or colleague and it’s too late to pull back. I end up feeling terrible and then sort of withdraw from the conversation as much as possible to prevent it from happening.

On the flip side, I likewise feel terrible when I feel like I’m not heard. It seems to come with the territory of marriage. I’m guilty of it as much as my husband is. Sometimes a person just isn’t up for listening. Sometimes it just takes too much effort but instead of kindly bowing out of a conversation or expressing the need for some solace or silence, we just pretend we’re listening, while actually tuning out. It’s not the kinder choice but in a strange way it seems like the more polite choice, even though it’s not.

With this is in mind, I intend to continue to make every effort to try to be a more active, attentive, and respectful listener, as well as to find better ways to better communicate when I know I’m not up for good listening. I think it’s okay to take a little time inside your head now and then. Sometimes listening to yourself is just as important.

September 26, 2014

Let me be the first to site my conversational faults. I struggle with not interrupting, especially when I am excited or passionate about a topic. I also get stuck inside myself in thought. My conversational skills took a dive when I was home for many years with my beautiful son, who doesn’t speak. I talked to him incessantly, and to anyone who came into my world during that time…his therapists, my husband, visiting friends…I was so desperate for adult conversation but so out of practice that I often co-opted every dialogue.

I’ve since regained some of the skills but I do still struggle, both with my own faults and with others. Good conversation is truly an art and I have the utmost respect for those who bear the talent and skill to be successful conversationalists.

A successful conversationalist is someone who is who well versed on the topic and who listens as well as they speak. The gift of gab also includes the ability to put others at ease, and to transition from topic to topic. Another key to being successful in conversation is the ability not to be repetitive in your story telling.

I feel like there is a form of disrespect in someone sharing the same story with you multiple times because it says that they weren’t really paying attention to the previous conversation(s). This skill is something that’s only recently become a pet peeve of mine, and I struggle to smile my way through third and fourth telling. I’m forgiving of a second telling, but impatient and uninterested in the third and beyond. I know I’m guilty of this faux pas on occasion but I’m aware of it and strive to make efforts not to perpetuate the behavior (as I do with my interruption problem).

My curiosity is whether there’s a kind, polite way of indicating to someone that this story has been shared with you many times without shaming or embarrassing someone? My interest is not to hurt someone’s feelings but to move a conversation forward. I suspect etiquette would dictate that you simply grin and bear it and then tactfully change the subject when it’s appropriate…