Choosing Civility: Are you listening?

By Levern Allen

Chair, CommUNITY Living Committee

Are you a good listener? Do you pay attention to the speaker?  Do you watch for nonverbal cues?  Do you interrupt? One of the 12 Principles of Considerate Conduct is listen.   Another is pay attention.  Have you internalized these two principles?

Let’s explore them.  When you hear a sound, mechanisms of the inner ear send the signals to the brain.  The brain interprets these sounds and tells you how to react.   If the sounds are pleasant you smile and respond accordingly.  If not, other emotions take over.  Good listeners are actively engaged most of the time.  As they decode the verbal message they also interpret nonverbal cues such as the tone of your voice, your facial expression, gestures or other physical postures.  If you are forming an opinion as a person is speaking holding that thought might be the best thing to do. Do not interrupt.  Good listeners will let you know that you have been heard by their response and their body language.  They pay attention.

Good listening skills will help you avoid many conflicts in life.  P. M. Forni explains it this way.  “What prevents us from doing a good job of listening is that instead of focusing on other people, we focus on ourselves and our own needs.  This is what we do, for instance, when we interrupt.”  We have our own agenda and do not listen nor pay attention but move forward with what we want to say.

Being a good listener is hard work. Let’s practice paying attention.  Let’s practice listening. Our actions and expressions (verbal and nonverbal) affect each other. Our goal continues to be harmonious living among residents, staff and visitors.

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