Professional Listener

I had an interesting conversation with a classmate of mine about our inability to speak loudly during presentations and such.

She said that it was a cultural thing, but she mentioned that her father was pretty loud, which caused her and her mother accommodate by being quieter. Recalling my own childhood, it was kind of same way except with my mother. Regardless, we agreed that in America, you have to be pretty loud to get the attention you need to sell your point (or any attention at all).

Which led us to the conclusion: People don’t listen.

This manifests itself in everything from people ranting all the time about their problems; people paying other people to listen to them talk about their emotional issues (therapists); explosive arguments left and right; and millions of girlfriends complaining that their boyfriends don’t listen enough. Is there any other place in the world that has these problems?

I would argue that our culture promotes it by promoting the idea of individualism, creating an everyman-for-himself-situation, which makes personal communication a matter of survival.

My classmate was also talking about how she’s adapted by mastering the art of nodding and smiling and adding the obligatory “uh-huh” to fake that she’s listening. And it doesn’t seem to bother the speaker at all.

Which leads us to another conclusion: personal communication, it seems, can just be a monologue.

This again, seems to be built on this individualism vibe we have going here. Our egos are so large that we feel like we can have an exchange of ideas through talking to ourselves. And it’s really unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on how you look at it), because our culture rewards this kind of behavior.

A lot of us (in the ad industry at least) are taught to have an opinion on everything and to express it. No matter if you actually know anything about what you’re being asked. This is ridiculous, because again, there’s no listening involved and it’s a monologue. God forbid you call time out to reflect on things. Part of the ridiculousness of planning is that it’s just that – listening. That’s my job, to listen to people and then reflect on what they said. It’s certainly something EVERYONE can do, but why they devote a special position for it? Well, now we know.

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5 responses to “Professional Listener”

  1. joe says :

    it is not unusual for people to engage in self-talk. actually this is a healthy sign for critical thinkers. this in contrast to those who impulsively say it out loud just for the sake of saying something.

    i believe that the unfortunate outcome of not expressing ones thought would be missing what needs to be shared and expressed verbally when the timing is appropriate.

  2. oakie says :

    the priority is what to say. I know someone, i call him “paraphraser,” he often paraphrases other people’s talk in the meeting room without his own idea.

  3. lovelesscynic says :

    Are you familiar with “active listening”? It’s a technique that’s taught to counselors and other people. Pretty much the theory behind it is to reflect back what the person is saying without adding any input of your own. Paraphrasing what they say to show that you’re listening.

    The active listening method is supposed to allow the person to voice their opinions without making the conversation about “you” the listener.

    The theory’s kind of interesting, and fairly popular apparently, and it correlates with your observations fairly well. However there’s nothing more frustrating than active listening when you know the theory and you know the person listening to you is doing it, because instead of giving you any concrete advice, they’ll just rephrase your comments until you both start going in rhetorical circles.

    Do we all really just want to talk about ourselves and not listen though? I mean clearly it annoys you and this person you had the conversation with. I know I don’t particularly enjoy it either. Although now I’ve brought the conversation back to myself, so perhaps I’m wrong.

  4. joe says :

    i agree with lovelesscynic about active listening, except it is more than rephrasing. it also providing active reframing. it also uses circular questioning until the person you’re talking with develops an insight about what he/she is trying to tell you. it is like peeling the layers of the onion using the person’s responses. hopefully, the person has insight, =)

  5. nien says :

    hm…interesting. i wasn’t even thinking about active listening when i wrote this. and the circular questioning idea is really interesting not that i think about it.

    my whole arguement might just go out the window because my thing was that if all you need is someone to nod and uh-huh their way through a conversation, then you could figure it out by yourself. but y’all mentioned that the listener actually plays a different role that i wasn’t aware of.

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