In college, a friend of mine told me, “You don’t always have to be talking”. I was so mad at him. Since that time, I have realized that was the most impactful thing anyone has ever said to me. I have always liked to talk but I am very aware that the most important thing I can do is listen.
Let me clarify what listening is not. It is not leaving a pause for the other person to have a turn while you rehearse what you’re about to say in your mind. Listening is opening your ears and mind to hear and process someone’s reality.
I tell every medical student I train that the most important part of being a doctor is listening. People will tell you what is wrong with them and you will only be able to help them if you are listening. This is not unique to the doctor-patient relationship. Your kids will tell you what’s up with them. Are you hearing what they tell you or what you want to hear? Your family and friends will see the world differently than you. Do you listen to them to appreciate their views and maybe even grow within yourself?
When you truly listen you will learn, grow and validate the people you care about. I challenge you to listen to the world around you today. Put down the distractions, turn down the noise, clear your mind of preconception and just listen.