For the next thirty days I decided to do something really difficult. It is difficult because there is no specific thing that I am doing. I am planning to listen more. I am planning to talk less. To make fewer smart ass remarks. To be less: funny. To just be more silent. Thirty days of in tune with my thoughts and the thoughts of others. Hear not just their words, but what they want to say to me, what they want me to hear, what they think. This is something that I think will not do anything great over thirty days and something that I feel I will fail over the course of thirty days but something that I think is important.
The reason for this was that I realized that I often made wisecracks. They were often at the wrong times and often they did not add anything to the conversation. They were more like heckling. So I would interrupt people to really attract attention to myself. I rarely found similar wisecracks funny or constructive when done to me. I realized that I often was thinking about what to say to people instead of listening to them. So, what if I make this very small change, for thirty days?
First fifteen days.
First fifteen days were rather uneventful. I did notice that I would listen to people and it was hard. It was hard to just sit quietly and wait. Thankfully I have a co-worker who is very smart and often speaks to me about politics.
We agree on a lot and so I noticed that if I hear him out, completely and thoroughly. Last week he started talking about why can’t we limit the incomes of the CEOs. While it was hard for me to hear him out completely, I was able to. Listening and not speaking, allowed me to have time to form a good answer and a well thought out one. So my response is not a one-liner, or a short response that doesn’t make an impact, it is one that he can follow. It also meant that he said everything that he wanted to say. He was heard and he was able to hear me.
At the end of my answer, he even thanked me for explaining my idea. In reality, I should have thanked him and myself. Because by listening, I was able to come up with a better understanding of an issue and speak to him in a better way.
In the next fifteen days, I want to come up with a method of listening besides getting an App that tracks your listening and talking percentage. Something to let me gauge my progress the way that I gauged my running progress. Something that makes me compete with myself. We’ll see how it goes, I’ll check in on the 28th. Until then, any ideas on another 30-day challenge I should do?
Last fifteen days
Thirty days, of doing my best to speak less and listen more. I’d say that this was the toughest task. Even when I had apps that looked at my speech, there was no good way to see how I did that day. I could simply mentally log if I listened or if I failed. Perhaps I should have actually written it down. I would have seen progress. So even though, in many ways, I failed. I think I still learned a lot. I learned to be quieter in class, to listen more instead of trying to speak and get my point across. I failed often. But less than before. I was able to listen more to people and surprisingly, by listening more I was actually able to have more impact on my words. For instance, by listening to a Trump supporter, I could speak to him without villainizing him. I could explain my point and have him understand me and see me not as a threat but as a fellow citizen.
I realized that telling people to listen instead of speaking is a fool’s errand because we speak out of emotion, we listen out of rationality. To stop yourself when you feel that you must express yourself at that moment is very difficult. To give the person time to form their thoughts, to speak without hindrance, to voice everything they had to say is very difficult. Sometimes you will see them change their own mind as they see problems with their ideas. Once they have given you their idea, they are far more receptive to yours because you let them finish theirs and so they have no need to express their idea.
It’s a beautiful thing and while this was one of my biggest failures, I consider it to be also one of my biggest learning experiences and one of my most important challenges. I hope to keep this one up as I have with running and flossing, which by the way, are far easier than doing tasks and listening and not procrastinating. We love to give people advice on those soft organizational tasks. But they are so rare precisely because they are so hard and they are hard because they require constant diligence, 16 hours a day, not 10 minutes like running of 2 minutes like flossing. Those tasks are easy. It’s the small things that you do every hour which I discovered to be the hardest.
Next month: a scholarship a day keeps graduate school debt at bay.