While listening to NPR the other day, I heard this story (from March) in which Julian Treasure discusses the importance of listening. The part that really stuck with me was this:
"I often think that listening is the most generous gift you can give to another human being."
How true is that? Everyone just wants to feel like what they are saying is being heard and understood. In a world where distractions are prevalent, it can be hard to really focus in on what someone is saying. I think that as a society we've begun to value speaking up and sharing one's ideas more often (which is great!) but with that in mind, we sometimes forget to take our turn at listening.
Treasure also brings up the fact that we're so plagued by noise that it can make listening difficult and even exhausting. When was the last time you sat in complete silence? I find that it happens so rarely. I've actually gotten to the point where I don't find silence as relaxing as I used to. Especially when I'm alone, I like to have background noise (like the t.v., music, etc.) or I start to feel nervous and uncomfortable. I think silence is so uncommon that it often feels eerie. Treasure suggests several exercises for helping improve one's conscious listening, including spending at least 3 minutes a day in silence (or as close to silence as you can possibly get.) He also suggests breaking down what you're hearing at any given moment and focusing in on each individual sound (what it is, where it is, etc.)
I think as children were often reminded to listen (to teachers, parents, classmates, instructions, rules). Listening is presented as an essential skill and a big part of our development, especially in school! But as we grow older, we're not reminded of the importance of listening nearly as often.
All of this is to say: listen at least as often as you speak!