One of the most positive things about travelling is the people you meet and the friends you make, many of which can last for a lifetime. But how do you connect with people in a different culture, particularly when you’ve often got a limited amount of time to make an impression? For me, the key to making meaningful connections is learning to truly listen – not to respond, but to really hear what the other person is saying.
Listening isn’t just about opening our ears either. It’s about being open and receptive, in principle, to new ideas, suggestions and considerations. Listening is ACTIVE. We must lean in, participate, nod our heads to encourage continued conversation and we need to ask questions to ensure clarity. Most of all however, we need to listen to HEAR not to RESPOND. What do we mean by this?
Listening to hear is about patience. It concerns the principle that we must be actively engaged in the conversation from the perspective of gaining understanding, not listening for the sole purpose of formulating our own arguments in response to what is being said. Listening to hear is about waiting for the ‘whole.’ Waiting for the speaker to complete his / her thoughts, pausing to think about those words and then responding. Too often we are each of us poised and ready to pounce in response to something we heard at the beginning of a sentence, to the exclusion of all that came after it. That’s not listening, that’s debating. It’s a ‘point – counterpoint’ approach to speaking that suggests a ‘Who will win this conversation’ point of view.
Listening to respond is also about remaining IN the moment. Connected to the speaker and not connected to any of our many devices. Few of us can actually multi-task effectively and most of us are much better off to focus on one task at a time. Active listening means put your phone down. It’s time to be connected, to each other rather than our devices. This is particularly important when you’re travelling and trying to make new friends and connections. You’re creating a first impression that will dictate your relationships with people you meet and how they treat you, and listening should be considered a hugely important part of that.
You will also find that truly active listening allows you to give much more meaningful feedback. This is true not just in your relationships while travelling, but also in your normal life back home. It’s also particularly valuable when it comes to your work life, where effective feedback has been shown to be crucial to overall morale, effective communication and productivity.