Are You Listening?

Often times I find myself in the position where I’ll be in the middle of telling a story and am abruptly interrupted by someone else telling their own story of a similar situation. As a result, leaving my story unfinished and my feelings unresolved.

Before starting at Legion, I worked at an outgoing call center where I worked as a fundraiser. Yes, I was that person on the other end of the phone calling at dinner time and asking for money. Though annoying, my time at the call center was beneficial leaving me with important skills.

A month or two in to my time at the call center, one of my supervisors suggested to me that I might have a little bit of a listening issue. I thought this was an unreasonable comment to make to someone who is constantly consulted by friends and family for advice, and believes that they are a great listener. But was I really listening to the customer? Or was I just hearing what they said and moving on to the next part of my script. Long story short, you may think you are a great listener because you are hearing what people have to say and have a story to share that is similar to theirs, but relating to a person and actually understanding a person are entirely different things.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey. This is something I predominantly see in my everyday life. I have a rough day and just want to talk it through with someone, have someone understand me, but instead I end up with an earful about that person and how they had a bad day similar to mine thirteen years ago, on October 5th, when their parents forgot to meet them at the bus stop in the first grade. This conversation leaving me even more frustrated than before and wanting to scream “are you even listening to me?”

I once watched a video on YouTube titled “It’s Not About The Nail”. This video shows a conversation between a man and a woman with a nail literally sticking right out of the middle of her head. The entire conversation consists of the woman complaining about her discomfort she has been feeling and how she feels very under pressure. The man is very quick to respond that she has a nail right in the middle of her forehead to which she replies “It’s not about the nail!” The video ends with the woman finally finishing her story and the man empathizing with her, which is all she wanted in the first place. Sometimes we aren’t talking to find a Band-Aid fix to our problems, we are talking because we want to feel understood.

Whether you are a parent, a student, or you’re working in an office, listening is an important skill that you are going to use in your everyday life. I encourage you to sit and listen quietly, until the story is over, so that you can understand and decide how to respond accordingly. Remember, sometimes people just want someone to listen, it’s not always about the nail.


by Melyssa Jackson, Marketing Intern