“If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” - Mark Twain
There is nothing in this world that bugs me more than being cut off before I finish speaking. (I mean, besides Donald Trump and terrorism and stuff, but that’s besides the point.) It’s rude, it disrupts my train of thought, and it’s just plain annoying. When someone cuts someone else off, they’re basically saying “I don’t care about what you have to say because what I have to say is more important so I have the right to interrupt you.” Unless you are cutting me off to tell me that you won the lottery or that Kim Kardashian liked your photo on Instagram, it can probably wait.
Now, I admit that I am guilty of doing this myself sometimes. When I notice it, I get really frustrated with myself. Why did I need to cut that person off when I could have easily just given them a second to finish? The answer is because I am usually too eager to wait to give my response, or because I think I have a really funny joke in response (which probably isn’t as funny as I think it is). It still bothered me, though.
Like I do with all things that bother me, I started to examine why. There is no way I’m going to change every single person that has a habit of interrupting others, so it would probably be easier to just make myself more accepting. So I wondered why it is just so irritating when someone cuts me off.
And it’s because I love to talk! I do. I could talk all day, I have so much to say. If I am around someone I like to talk to, I will never run out of things to talk about. Have you heard about that story in the news? Did you hear so and so’s new song? Let me tell you all about this documentary I watched last week.
And why do I like to talk so much? A question I still can’t answer. Maybe I’m self-centered, maybe I like the sound of my own voice, maybe I’m just human. Talking is something every human does every day...to each other, to ourselves, in our sleep, under our breath. But the fact is, I talk too much and you probably do too. We humans love to talk about ourselves more than anything else. And who could blame us? We spend 24 hours a day with ourselves, everyone is a little bit self absorbed; our worlds truly do revolve around us.
But as a society, I think most of us need to learn how to shut up a little more often and listen. Seriously listen. Developing powerful listening skills is such an important tool in communication, and without it, you will be missing out on a whole other part of life you rarely expose yourself to.
I know. It’s way more fun to talk than it is to listen. I know you’re bursting with stories about what happened at dinner yesterday, and you just can’t bear to listen to a classmate blab on and on about Zayn’s new album for another minute without telling. But the sad truth is, what you have to say is probably not that important. I have made it a goal to utilize my two ears more than my one mouth from now on. It’s a bit of a process filled with constant reminders, but I have learned a lot from it. I’ve learned that when we listen more, we not only learn so much more about people, but we also show them that we care about them and value what they have to say. Face to face interaction is so powerful. Paying attention to tone, body language, and verbal signs are all part of being a good listener. There’s a reason sarcasm doesn’t travel well through text--a problem I struggle with every day--and it is because speaking, and true communication, is more than just saying words.
It’s important to pay attention to those around us. I can’t even count how many times I’ve tried to have an honest conversation with someone, but they were too busy on their phone to mutter anything more than a “yeah”. At dinners, parties, even during classes. It’s not just teens, by the way. I love my mom, but I admit sometimes even she is way too into a Candy Crush game on her iPad to listen. I promise, your technology will always be there. The story you’re holding in will always be there to tell afterwards. Maybe try writing it down so you don’t forget it. It might be worth it to actually try to listen this time.
So next time you are having a meaningful conversation with someone, try two things: first, don’t just hear them, listen to them. Hearing and listening hold two completely different meanings. Listen carefully and attentively, like they are about to reveal a valuable piece of information, like they are about to tell you the meaning of life. Then, take a second before you respond to let them finish their thoughts. This way, you not only avoid stepping on their words, but you also give yourself time to really think about what you want to say. You own every thought that escapes your mouth, so let every word you say be worth it.