Miss Manners: Listening and Replies

It happens to me probably once a day – someone replies to what I said and I think “did they even hear me? Or did they not understand?”  I end up with a lot of self-doubt because of this.

Let’s look at a few scenarios:

  • I’m at a drive-through and say I have a coupon. The employee responds with “ok, your X combo is $$$”
  • A friend posted on FB a link to an article of a conservative complaining that “liberals” don’t listen
  • A friend posted on FB where a liberal was complaining that conservatives were closed minded
  • Tech support hears the first two words out of my mouth and starts trying to tell me what’s wrong
  • Customer Service asks if I need anything and turns away before I can answer
  • Customer Service asks “how are you today” and when I say “I’m pretty good” they walk away again

Any of these sound familiar? Anyone else ever start seeing red when one of these happens?

In our life of “hurry up!” and “that’s SO last minute” (which is SO last decade, I know) we need to stop and really LISTEN. This is a manners thing I think a lot of people have stopped doing. Especially on some of the highly emotional topics like politics, rights, and religion.

When I was a child, my mother made my siblings and I “swap” arguments when we couldn’t solve things ourselves.  In order to get our way, we had to argument the OTHER argument.  We usually ended up compromising as we realized the other person did indeed have valid points of view. Try this sometime, take the point of an issue which you totally disagree with.  Do your research (yes, this sometimes means wading through things that make you crazy) and try to formulate the argument AGAINST your point of view.  Make the argument you could buy to win yourself to that side of the argument.

Most of these aren’t arguments though, it is people just not paying attention. When you have someone in front of you – stop trying to form your reply and pay attention to them. Your first sentence should then be “I hear you saying…” or “I understand your point of…”

The customer service ones are just poor customer service from employees who have things they would rather do than form a personal connection. I know this isn’t all customer service, and I’ve had positive interactions – but they seem to be rare and unique.  Think about the places you choose to shop. How much is it the service?  Think about restaurants – how many good experiences were because you had an awesome, friendly, attentive server?

Customer service is a microcosm of the larger problem. I would love to do a 30-day-listening challenge, but I don’t think it would work as well as the 30-day gratitude challenges I’ve seen people do.  I DO challenge people to stop and listen. Listen to the side you disagree with. Make their argument so that you would turn sides. Try it. I challenge you.  Pick a topic and take the opposite side from your normal stance.

True manners is believing other people have a right to have an opinion, even if you think that opinion is entirely wrong. Giving the other person the benefit of the doubt that they are a person with valid points is the polite thing. I know – it’s practically unAmerican to say that someone can disagree with me and not be a horrible person (or not a person at all).

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