By Sarah Agan
October 2, 2012
I came to terms with the fact my husband likes to play Xbox. I resisted this for a long time and finally accepted it’s something he enjoys. He often tells me about the games he plays - and I listen. Well, actually, I really don’t listen.
We were having dinner at our favorite restaurant last week and my husband was talking to me about a game he'd played earlier, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. His enthusiasm was palpable and I was, to be honest, totally uninterested in what he was saying. I sat there, sipping my wine and pretending to listen. You know, the occasional head nod and “um-hum” that we seem to think passes as listening. As I’m pretending to listen the voices in my head are saying: “you are a hypocrite…you preach that if you are really listening to another and being curious there isn’t any topic you won’t find interesting.”
"Honey," I said. "I want to apologize to you--I’m not really listening to you and I’m sorry."
"It’s no big deal," he replied. "It’s not like it’s an important topic, it’s just about a game.”
"That may very well be," I said back, "And, I love you and this is something you enjoy and I don't want to disregard something that brings you enjoyment.”
In that moment, I committed myself to listening with intention to what he had to say and that is when things got really fascinating.
I wasn’t curious about the mechanics of the game he was playing. What I was interested in knowing was what it was about the game that he enjoyed so much. Now I was really listening. My husband started to talk about the game in a totally animated and different way that caused me to lean in and be even more curious. Eventually our server (also male) joined the conversation, and then a second server. I watched as these three men talked about what they enjoyed so much about Xbox. Their vigorous exchange included:
Listening to these comments helped me understand that perhaps at a deeper level, Xbox represents the opportunity for people (yes, I would say men more so than women) to act out innate needs all in a space of absolute and total anonymity. I also realized that when I committed myself to listening to something that I had previously found uninteresting, all the sudden it became really “juicy.”
Authentic listening is generated from curiosity. Pretending to listen – especially to someone for whom we care – is a disservice. When we make listening a gift of our attention, and not a tactic, our conversations become exponentially richer.
The tips below can help you check for when you are actually listening or really being listened to:
You Know You Are Being Listened To When:
You Know You Are Listening When:
What tips do you use to catch yourself when you are not listening?
(Image via Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock.com)
By Sarah Agan
October 2, 2012