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Let’s have a chat. We speak with people every day — some of us more than others — and it can be difficult at times to slow down amid the frenzy of our lives and evaluate how we’re communicating. Enter Simone Saunders, BSW, MSW, RSW, a therapist from Alberta, Canada, who shared a short but important video on TikTok posing a question to consider: “Are you listening, or are you waiting to talk?”
This question is so simple, yet as soon as she posed it, I remember taking a few moments to really sit with myself. It was like I was reliving all of my conversations from that past day or critical encounters I’d had this year. Was I truly listening? I wasn’t sure, so I made it my goal to keep this question in mind during one-on-one and group time with others.
I will throw myself under the bus here for the sake of journalism: Saunders’s inquiry made me realize that I tend to half-listen in many conversations throughout my day. I am listening, but I’m also thinking about what I want to say — not in every situation, though in more situations than I’d normally like to admit. I’m eager to add my opinion to the mix to help people and relate to them; I have good intentions. I’d be remiss, however, not to note that I also wish to rebut when I don’t agree with what people say, and that might not always be a positive thing. I do this in my personal life more so than in my professional life, but, yes, still in my professional life, just carefully and with increased consideration.
So, I tried. I tried to pause, be mindful of my urges to speak, stifle those urges, and fully listen. I won’t say that I was perfect at this practice by any means — I think everyone can learn a thing or two about embracing patience and stepping into a state of listening in order to learn. However, keeping this question from Saunders top of mind forced me to reflect on my communication skills in a way I rarely ever do. And it changed my perspective during meetings and interviews with sources for work and during friendly back-and-forth with people around me.
Of course, there are instances where asking questions and going over what you want to say in your head midconversation is essential, but the key is remembering that sitting in silence is a useful tool when connecting with other people. Talking isn’t always the answer. This one query that Saunders posed will aid in me becoming a better communicator in all aspects of my life: as a journalist, a family member, a friend, a partner, and beyond. Are you up for the same?