There’s no denying that our world has become more hectic, more “noisy.” We keep multiple to-do lists, constantly overbook, and take on too many projects. And lets’ be honest, we’ve become comfortable with that. With all this activity, lots get done. But some things suffer in the process. We don’t give ourselves adequate time to process, to think, to dream, to imagine. And our relationships sometimes suffer as well. We see the people we need to see, but we don’t truly let people in. We become busier on the outside yet more isolated on the inside.
What’s the solution? Besides the obvious answer, which is to simplify your schedule a bit, let me suggest this, in your interactions with people, take time to pause, take a breath, and actually listen to what the other person is saying. I don’t mean just listen with your ears, but listen with your mind and heart.
When I was a kid growing up, weekends were usually filled with yard work. My dad, my brother, and sister all had assignments. I don’t remember exactly where the saying initiated, but I remember my mom telling my dad to “Turn off your edger,”. That meant; Stop what you are doing and pay attention to your kids, or to me. “Turn off your edger” was a euphemism to remind him to stop his yard work (which was often edging the driveway and sidewalks), long enough to listen to what my mom or one of the kids were trying to ask him. Turn off your edger meant, “Focus Danielson, focus!” Don’t half-listen while still trying to get one more thing checked off your weekend to-do list.
So as you approach the holiday season, where you undoubtedly will be put in social settings outside of your norm, where you will see friends and relatives you don’t normally see, make sure you are intentional about listening, not just to what is being said, but pay close attention to the person saying it. Who knows, some of your greatest insights, your next “Ah-Ha!” moment might come from being open and vulnerable enough to really listen.
This kind of “active listening” actually takes a bit of work, some getting used to. But try it even today. In your next work conversation, instead of thinking about your response while the other person is still talking, try doing just one thing, really listening. Turn off your mental edger and listen. You might be pleasantly surprised at the insights that come to you as a result.