Many articles have been written citing Listening as a gift to share with others, a gift of time.

So now, when we have just that – more (or different) time – it is more important than ever to dedicate some conscious thought and focus on how and when we really listen.

Until relatively recently, our worlds were fast paced, busy, jam packed with multiple demands on our time. Unless we were consciously carving out time to actively listen, frequently it was an activity which was done concurrently with many other things – from brains jumping ahead to our projected answers, tech notifications causing thought processes to diverge away, carrying out a parental task or just something else around us momentarily distracting us.

However now, we have time to listen. Those quick meetings or coffee catch ups have become scheduled zoom meetings. Those rushed, distracted parental interactions are now family meals and weekends of simple activities together. We now have dedicated time to speak and listen – and to notice.

So how could we listen differently now?

Usually a lot of our communication is non verbal. So living life through our screens in dedicated timeslots means we naturally have to focus harder during each conversation, listening to the actual words and relying less on body language. Of course watch out for the non verbal signals; the flicker of emotion/ recognition/ frustration across someone’s face, hearing a slight pause before answering, noting the environment they are in – is this restricting them in any way from fully contributing? But otherwise we have to rely on really listening.

In 1:1’s, try letting the other person finish what they are saying, without adding your own vocal affirmations. Or in team calls, notice who isn’t speaking or hear a sudden change in tone or opinion. Allow a pause before jumping in to respond – you never know if there’s a bit more to come.

This additional time also gives us a opportunity to really tune in to ourselves – to listen to our bodies, to listen to the voice in the back of our minds, to listen to our gut. Is that voice louder now, now that the busy distractions of life have been removed?

So how can we take this opportunity of more time to be better listeners? Some simple things – creating a safe place to listen where you know you won’t be disturbed, changing your location to see whether you listen differently, giving the ‘speaker’ more uninterrupted time to speak, consciously switching your perspective to see something through their eyes.

Before (if!) life reverts back to how it was before, why not try taking time in the next few days to try out a different approach in your listening? You never know what even just a small tweak might do…