Today I’m going to be a sponge. When someone is communicating with me, I am going to soak in every nuance of the message.

What do I sometimes (usually?!) do when I’m “listening?” Continue my internal dialogue, which sounds something like this: “I really need to get some more bread on my way home. Did he just say to push back the deadline? That’s crazy?”

In other words, it’s all too easy for me to sorta kinda listen, while I use parts of my brain to attend to other business (like bread). This multi-tasking makes it impossible for me to really hear what the person is saying. I think I’m listening, but I’m not giving it my full attention.

How well can I be listening when I already have decided that the other person’s idea won’t work (a nice way of saying is crazy)? I’d like to say that I am an open-minded person, but this mid-conversation judging happens more than I’d like to admit.

So usually I’m more of a filter than a sponge. I only allow bits of the message to get through, because I attend to other things and jump too quickly to judge what’s said. And please do not ask me to pay attention to your nonverbals. Those won’t get through my filter. I’m much too busy creating a mental grocery list.

So how do I transform myself from a filter into a sponge? I thought you’d never ask.

  1. Take pride in really understanding the other person’s unique viewpoint
  2. When someone begins talking, put my other thoughts and needs on the back burner
  3. Spend far less time and energy getting my own point across (don’t talk so much)
  4. Watch body language and mention it when I’m getting cues I don’t understand (e.g., it seems like you’re upset)
  5. After careful listening, summarize what I’ve heard to make sure I got it right

I may not get it right all the time, so I’m not setting my sights on being the ultra-absorbent model. I do want to be a better communicator, and I know that for me, it starts with being a better listener.

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