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Look, Just Listen

Listening is not waiting to speak. I remember hearing this some time ago and it always stuck with me. A simple concept but one I think we can ignore quite easily at times. And fair enough. In this world where content is everywhere and topics for discussion are thrown at us with several intense opinions, it’s difficult to have our say.

But just by listening we can have truely open conversations.

I’m self admittedly not a the best listener in most conversations. However, in my work as a graphic recorder I have been forced to sit quietly, listen and facilitate graphical representations of conversations and presentations, as people present their ideas. There are two major things I have learnt from this experience.

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Number one, people want to say their piece. Generally most of the time you will come to a conversation or discussion armed with a view point. This view point may be an artillery of heavy weaponry or a pistol with a few key points. To what ever degree, you probably want to say your piece. Some people will put their ideas on the table and then retreat to listen to a response or gain new information. Others, the more introverted of us, will maybe lightly drop a few feathers into the conversation. And then there are those who rain hellfire down and never stop until everyone is nodding in full agreement. 

Everyone’s point of view is incredibly important and vital to the conversation, as long as it contributes relevantly and encourages the conversation to move forward. By sharing your information and then sitting back to listen, you are actively engaging, not just waiting to speak.

Number two. In listening more, you learn a lot. Not just about the message of what people are saying, but about how people present ideas and the flow of human communication. Over the many years I have been graphic recording, I have picked up on people’s speech patterns. Not only does this help me to record a flowing story, but it also helps to make me work more efficiently. For example, I can assume when the speaker is going to move into more detail on a subject, based on their tone and flow of speech. I can then build out a more complex illustrations and as a listener, understand the point they’re making to learn something valuable.

In conversation, the more we actively listen the more we can understand the patterns of speech. By understanding more about the flow of a story we can engage with the content in a genuinely knowing way.

When we actively listen we can learn things that we might not ever pick up if we’re just waiting to speak. There’s a lot of information out there to be learned, a lot of great conversations to be had and a lot of valuable ideas to be shared.