Being a Good Virtual Listener
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Being a Good Virtual Listener

We all know that listening is more than hearing and, right now, we need to be there for each other more than ever. How do we be there when we are so far apart?

Being a Good Virtual Listener

I tend to think a lot about listening. Listening is central, in my eyes, to what makes a good friend and also what makes a good acquaintance. In my day-to-day life before quarantine I tried to make a conscious effort whenever I could to open my ears and be a receptive person for my loved ones and strangers alike.

One thing managerial experience has taught me is that listening is often as active as it is passive. Eye contact, body language, and words of affirmation are central to being truly present for someone's expression. As an extrovert, I have to curtail the "active" sometimes and I try to be thoughtful about the amount of verbal cues I give to indicate that I am listening.

The switch to online interaction has been difficult in this regard. In the United States we are about 5 weeks into quarantine and throughout this time I have been doing my very best to stay social while physically distancing. For the purposes of how I've come to understand virtual listening I divide online interaction into the two categories of "textual" and "face-to-face."

"Textual" communication has proved to be the hardest platform on which to listen. Platforms that are "textual" are ones where you cannot see the other person during your conversation except for the messages they are sending you. I almost exclusively use iMessage when it comes to virtual communication where the other person lacks a visual of myself. So how do you listen without excessive active participation when you lack the ability to nod your head or laugh? I personally love the react functions iMessage has that allows me to "love", "like", "dislike", "emphasize", "laugh", or "question" the other person's message without typing a word. Typical listening skills can also still be performed on this medium; I ask questions, laugh ("hahaha"), and remind the other person I'm there for them implicitly and explicitly.

Let's talk about our new "face-to-face" conversations. I struggle with these interactions as well and I will underscore again my too-eager extrovert tendencies. Zoom is my interface of choice because of its "screen share" function and capacity to handle many people in a chat at once. Knowing when to chime in is hard enough in person and through a screen it's even more of a challenge. I've had to really learn how to slow down above all. Giving an extra pause after someone says something to make sure they finish has proved to be essential and is still something I'm teaching myself. Unlike "textual" communication a head nod and facial expressions of understanding can come through, making "face-to-face" communication a preferable choice for me.

Learning how to be better communicators in our new realities is something I'm realizing we have to contend with and I hope my personal experience with virtual listening is helpful and assists you in getting creative in letting your friends know you're there.
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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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