I was listening to a podcast earlier today by Glennon Doyle about conversations and one of the topics that really hit home was "why we love talking about ourselves---and when it helps (and when it hurts) our relationships." I've realized over the last two years that a lot of people tend to talk more and listen less. Active listening is an important trait and takes time to learn. The amount of time we as individuals spend talking about ourselves is astonishing.
I'm definitely being contradictory I write about myself, but the biggest takeaway I've learned from a variety of books and podcast is this: when someone (whether that be a friend or family member) comes to you to vent about a situation they are going through, you need to ask them and yourself, do you want my advice/opinion or to just listen? Let me repeat, do you want me to give my opinion/advice or to JUST LISTEN? Because a lot of the time, most people just want to vent. They are bringing this problem they are going through to you. They are confiding in you. They are trusting you. When you sit back and let them unload, it makes the other person feel less alone.
The reason most of us spend about 60% of our time talking about ourselves is because it activates the same part of the brain that is activated when we have sex or eat good food (Glennon Doyle). That is crazy! But, there are pros and cons to it. Let's say you're trying to tell a story to a friend and get interrupted multiple times to the point where you don't even want to share anymore. It's frustrating. That person interrupting was not listening. With or without knowing, they probably made the other person feel unheard and unseen. Human connection is what makes us who we are. We look for that deep sense of connection through all kinds of relationships, such as mentors, friends, professors, a partner, etc. Over the years, I've realized there are far and few people that tend to listen more than they speak. If we all take a step back, and think: How much of what I've said is really important? What actually contributed in a meaningful way? Am I asking meaningful questions? Then, we can reevaluate the way we communicate with ourselves and others.
I'm a firm believer that verbal and non-verbal communication are very different. And, how we all communicate varies on the person. You could think that because someone's arms are crossed that they are closed off. But, they could just be uncomfortable or nervous in a room full of new faces. Or someone else could be talking a lot and then stop because they think they're annoying everyone else. Truth be told, no one else was annoyed, they just weren't listening. We can't read minds, but we can 'think' we know what someone else is feeling. At the end of the day, we don't know what someone else is going through. THAT is why learning how to communicate effectively, should be your top priority. It's all about the first step. Take a deep look within, understand how you communicate and how that can positively or negative affect the people around you.
By becoming more self-aware, and taking the time to actively listen instead of speaking blindly, we can begin to form deeper connections with others.