Face to Face

I just finished reading The Library Book by Susan Orlean. She quotes a librarian: “My hero is Albert Schweitzer. He said, ‘All true living takes place face to face.” This caught my attention, because I truly think the world would be a better place if we lived in a more “face to face” way.

That thought led me on a Google path, and I came across a TED talk by journalist Celeste Headlee on how to have better conversations with more real connection. Let me share some of her points (with my own spin) – it’s relevant to the hearing impaired, to their listening partners, and to each and every one of us.

  • Don’t multitask! Be fully present to the conversation. Look at the person’s face so you are fully engaged. Facial expressions help you catch the words accurately, and help you assess whether you have been heard as intended. Don’t divide your attention between the person in front of you and your phone. Instead revel in the shared space of real conversation.
  • Enter a conversation with the expectation that you have something to learn. Have an open ear and open heart. Don’t pontificate! Real conversation is a two-way street.
  • Ask open ended questions that invite description, such as “how did that feel?” or “What was that like?”
  • Go with the flow. You may have an internal script, but the conversation may head along another path. Let go of what you have pre-set in your mind.
  • If you don’t know, say you don’t know and ask for clarification. If you did not hear, ask for repetition. Your partner wants you to get it.
  • Don’t equate your experience with theirs. (I am sometimes guilty of this – I may want to offer a parallel experience to express empathy, but it may be best to just listen.) All experiences are individual.
  • LISTEN!!! We all like to talk. We get distracted by our thoughts. When we talk we are in control. In the words of Stephen Coven: “We listen with the intent to reply.” But – slow down! Be interested in the other person. Converse with an open mind and open heart. In Ms. Headlee’s words: “Be prepared to be amazed!”

I’m really stuck on this topic. Sure, I believe listening strategies facilitate communication for the hearing impaired and their listening partners – remember hearing devices are only part of the solution. But, in a world where we think we can multitask, where social media may provide an echo chamber rather than true exchange of ideas, where the world view has become more polarized and less collaborative…. slow down, fully listen, and have face to face real communication.

Remember, here at our McGuire’s offices we pride ourselves in listening to your story, so come in and talk to us face-to-face. You will find we hear you, and will help you hear better, in a way that works best for you.