Wait... what did you say?? Sorry about that, I wasn't listening. Ever said that before? This is a rude reminder that for a moment, we were just hearing and not listening. The body was functioning properly to determine that a voice was speaking but the mind was not engaged enough to process the words being spoken. I have been in the midst of retelling a thrilling account of an exciting life event and preparing for my friend to be as thrilled to hear how it ends, then we get a minor interruption and my friend has no idea what we were talking about. No need to harshly judge my friend; I am just as bad. Networking and looking over the shoulder for someone else to talk to; guilty. Listening to my wife or children telling me about their day and realize I have no idea what they just said; guilty. Act like you are listening, but more engaged with the glowing screen demanding attention; guilty. A recent gut shot, was an infographic (The Tail End) by Tim Urban, that breaks down an average lifespan. There is a reason that it is called "paying attention", there is a cost to giving our attention to those around us. At that moment, we are choosing them over anything else we could be doing with our lives. Invest you attention, they are worth it. We don't have a lot of time to live this life and I hate the thought of living it distracted and not being present for those around us. Needing someone to repeat themselves because a jackhammer is tearing up the street or a helicopter is overhead are good reasons for asking for a statement to be repeated. No worries, the Facebook feed will be there when we are done looking into the eyes of those sitting across the table. Lets not force them to type their status into their device so we can read it online. Lets look up, listen and be present. After all, I shouldn't have to repeat myself.
What distractions tempt you to just hear? What are the benefits to listening? How will listening change your relationships? How have you seen actively listening impact those you focus upon? What do you expect to learn by listening? What is a favorite story you have been told as a result of really listening? How does your companions smile, tone and demeanor change as they talk; these are important cues you might have been missing.