The Millennial's Guide to Active Listening
As members of Generation Y, we're judged so much on what we say that without our consent, others categorize our thoughts into one of two categories with no gray area: mind-numbing (think Jersey Shore) or mind-blowing (a la Carl Sagan). We now label our thoughts and opinions with words like "basic", "ratchet", "ditzy", "dumb", "blonde", "too X" etc. Some times, we even preface our personal opinions with "audience warnings": "This is going to sound basic, but I love Fall!" It's okay to love Fall! You don't have to call yourself a name before expressing what you like and dislike. It's open season on millennial thoughts: just because we use hashtags in verbal conversations, quote Medium instead of the Washington Post, and recite song lyrics instead of sonnets doesn't mean that what we're saying is less important (at least to us). So what's the end result? On one hand, the speaker is more likely to filter their thoughts and opinions, downplay what they actually think and believe so as not to cause friction or stir up conflict, and unless they're in a safe space, talk about neutral fluff. Faff, some may call it. We faff. Then what happens?
We don't listen to each other. We start to treat real, live conversations like predictive text: we assume we know more or less where the story is going, so that gives us the opportunity to zone out and glaze over the details. Here's a guide to active listening for the millennial. Hopefully by pointing out things that may be subconscious, we can work towards being present and participatory, not just reactionary.
Use Body Language to Express Understanding
Have you ever showed someone a funny meme mid convo? Taken your friends photo for the 'gram because while they were pouring their heart out, they looked really pensive sitting by the window? Yeah, let's not do that. By putting your phone down and making eye contact you express to the speaker that what they're saying matters to you, and deserves your attention. Also, use positive body language: slouching, crossed arms, tense smiles read as aggressive and closed off.
Don't Offer Unsolicited Advice (& don't judge!)
"Jen, I'm struggling because I can't find my keys, and I think it's because I've been so distracted by X lately"
"Well, I told you to buy that electronic key locator off Amazon, but if you want my opinion, you should try taking supplements! You need vitamins!"
Often times when we cut our friends off with a "solution", it translates to: "yeah, yeah, I figured it out! Next! Let's change the subject! ". Some times people come to us as a sounding board, not looking for a professional problem solver or therapist. You don't have to have an answer for everything.
Let Them Speak
That means don't interrupt, even if you get the itch. yes, conversations should be fluid and have a certain level of back and forth; however, more likely than not, you're sharing an idea or thought that popped into your head that may or may not be related to the current conversation.
"Oh! Did you know that Chipotle is shutting down for a few hours in February to talk about its health code? I thought of that because you said you broke a glass bowl, and I love burrito bowls!"
Conversations aren't just live-action games of word association and 7 degrees of separation.
Re-state their points in your own words
This simply shows that not only did you hear sounds, you comprehend what the speaker is telling you.
Ask for Clarification if you don't understand.
We do speak in acronyms after all, it's okay to need a translation. Ask engaging questions like "What happened next?" "How did you react?" Try leaning forward, smiling, reacting, and using an enthusiastic tone.
We're the generation of multi-tasking. I'm most certainly guilty of it too. At any given moment, a millennial is designing a set for their next Instagram photo, imagining which filter to choose, sending an iMessage about meeting with friends for dinner that evening, listening to another friend talk about their wild night out, while sending a Snap of their OOTD. Doing more is not synonymous with doing better. It's not like Generation Y is mute!
We have things to say: between blogs, podcasts, micro-blogging sites like Twitter, status updates on Facebook and even adding your mood to your Whatsapp status! We've got things to say, and we should start by listening to each other and placing importance on our peer's thoughts and world view. Yes, the Baby Boomers look at us with scorn and not-so-subtle disdain. They may call us lazy, or shallow, or distracted; but, whether they like it or not we are the future.
Danni, Community + Content Director at Las Morenas de España, is a twenty-something, Chicago native currently residing in Madrid. Lover of language, words, and travel, she's managed to combine all of her passions through her work. In her free time, you can find her exploring the winding streets of Madrid, hunting down good flight deals, planning her next adventure and writing & researching for LMDES. Danni loves spicy food, natural hair, music and of course, her wonderful life partner. If you need to find her, she’s the girl with huge hair and her face buried in her Kindle.