When Was the Last Time You REALLY Listened?

I think it’s safe to say that most people enjoy talking/posting about themselves. In fact, one study done by a group of scientists at Harvard found that Facebooking and Tweeting about yourself stimulates the brain in the same ways that sex and getting paid do. Whoa. That’s probably why 80 percent of Facebook posts and tweets relate to that person’s “own immediate experience.” But as social media makes it easier to “humblebrag” or just talk about your commute in to work, I’m finding that this mode of thinking is taking over our entire lives. People are becoming less “how are you?” and more “let me tell you how I am.” They’re self-centered, whether they mean to be or not.

Sure, when you’re on Facebook and Twitter you’re going to talk about yourself at least a little bit. That’s normal. But I think we’re getting so used to thinking in this way that it’s making us less empathetic; it’s making our listening skills worse. Or maybe I’m just becoming more aware of it.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and it becomes clear that they actually have no interest in hearing what you have to say on the matter they’re bringing up? They just want to be able to express their own thoughts to a party who’s willing to listen. I find that happens more and more. Or I’ll notice that I’ll go to dinner with a friend and not get asked once about how I’m doing. Honestly, I really do enjoy listening. I love hearing about what my friends and loved ones are up to. But not asking how someone is even once seems to illustrate that you actually don’t care about that person’s life. It’s pretty hurtful.

I know it’s easy to become self-absorbed and not even realize it. in fact, in tenth grade one of my friends told my other friend that she felt I only talked about myself. I was absolutely horrified, but was completely unaware that I was doing it. Even though this instance was many years ago, and the friend probably has no idea that I know about her critique, I still remain very much aware of it today. She was right, and because of it I was able to change my behavior. Maybe this is part of the problem. When you only talk about yourself, you don’t realize it until someone points it out.

So, I pose this question: When was the last time you really listened? When was the last time you asked a friend for advice and then listened to her response instead of continuing to tell a story? When was the last time you asked someone “What’s new?” and then listened to their answer? If it’s been a while, make it a point to listen to the people in your life. You may find pick up on something you haven’t notice. Perhaps they’re struggling with an issue or are really getting interested in a new hobby. You’ll be able to lend your support more effectively when you actually know what’s going on with them.

Do you find that social media makes it easier to become self-absorbed? Do you have family members or friends who only talk about themselves? Have you fallen victim to this?

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  1. You should go to dinner with me. I’ll listen and ask how you’re doing.

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