I’m know that I’m not the first person to say that listening is an underrated skill. Good listeners are sometimes hard to find, and you never notice it more than when you are around an abundance of bad listeners. I interacted with a few bad listeners as important parts of my work and hobbies in my last town, and it really started to get on my nerves. However, it did teach me the skill of letting bad listeners “talk themselves out” until they realize how much they are saying (and, frequently, how silly it sounds). Anyway, I would just like to give a general thank-you to all the good listeners in my life and those I don’t know. Listeners: you rock.
I would rate myself as a pretty good listener. I can listen to, sympathize with, and remember a lot of things that people tell me. I think my biggest problem is when people are slow talkers. When I am around slow talkers I have an irrepressible urge to finish their sentences. I am working on this, but it is hard. I have also moved to a part of the country where there are more slow talkers than anywhere else I have lived. I consider this to be a learning opportunity (on a good day).
So, being a good listener is something I value and cultivate in myself. However, sometimes it gets me in trouble. I have sometimes been the repository for information I didn’t really want to know because of my status as a good listener. This has sometimes been quite uncomfortable.
A more comical example of the peril of being a good listener is evident in small group settings. I habitually make eye contact with the speaker and nod (unless they are saying something I really don’t like). By the end of most lab or faculty meetings, it sometimes seems that I’m the only one doing this (everyone else is avoiding eye contact), which causes whoever is speaking to make more direct eye contact with me, and so on. It’s a vicious cycle, and a little bit exhausting at times. Especially when the faculty meeting goes for two hours.