Is there anything more frustrating than to be interrupted? In our over-wired world, we can now be interrupted any time, anywhere, for any reason, by a beep or a buzz or a ringtone. Think about the sales clerk who stops ringing up your purchases to answer the phone. Whoever is on the line is obviously way more important than you, standing right in front of her, with your credit card in hand.
Interruptions not only derail our train of thought, but also short-circuit any emotional connections we may be making. We can — and should — turn off our devices to limit electronic intrusions during conversations, so we can give our attention entirely to the people we are talking to right now.
Before aggressive talk-show hosts and hard-charging celebrity CEOs turned conversation into a martial art, not interrupting someone speaking was plain good manners and important if you were to get ahead in the world. Listening to other people means understanding what they are saying, not trying to decide what you are going to say to score gotcha points.
Let the other person finish a thought or a story before jumping in with your own. If you aren’t really listening to them, you don’t have a clue if what you say is appropriate or not. More to the point, you let them know you don’t really care what they are talking about – or what they are about as a person.
If you are really listening, you’ll want to ask questions to make sure you understand what they say. This lets them know you are focused on them, what they think, what they are feeling, who they are. That is a rare and wonderful gift to give, and you might be surprised to discover that really listening can feel as wonderful as being truly heard.
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