Just Listen

During my nine months of intense character-refining with 10 others near University of Michigan, I was shown many things about myself. One is that I have a terrible habit of interrupting people. 

Sometimes it’s malicious: I don’t like what someone is saying, and I want to cut them off, correct them, or in some way make them cease and desist. Slightly more often, though, it’s benevolent: I want to tell you how I understand what you’re going through, here’s a story from my life to prove it! Or, even more often, I’m rephrasing what you just said because I process information by speaking and want to make sure I’m following you (or sometimes I want you just to get to your point, so may I finish your sentence for you?). I’ll also probably interrupt with something to make you laugh. Laughter makes everything better. 

The problem is, though, it’s still interrupting. I’m still disrupting your train of thought, however benevolent and innocent it may be. I’m still forming sentences, comebacks, ideas, or future topics in my brain while you’re talking instead of doing the one thing your talking automatically asks of me: just to listen. 

A women talking with a man at a table, both with coffee.

This video (which I find absolutely hilarious) illustrates the point succinctly: people don’t want your solutions unless they feel like you understand the problem. Even if you’re right. Actually, especially if you’re right. The solution might be as obnoxiously clear as it is in the video, but it might just be clear to you. Still want to fix it? I get it. Just remember that you’re the most helpful when you have all the information–objective and subjective alike.

Take the time to just listen. Don’t formulate your response, your 3-step-plan-for success, or a deviating topic in your mind while mechanically nodding. Just listen. It is a rare act of love and intentional selflessness in our modern era. I’ll be practicing right beside you.