It’s so tempting to try to fake listening. Especially by trying to fake body language. We’ve been trained to be expert fakers when it comes to using our bodies.
We smile at people we secretly find as pleasant as a fork scraping on a plate.
We nod agreeably when the boss says something, though we couldn’t agree less.
We say we’re fine when we’re bummed or panicked or ticked off.
When it comes to listening, we know that nodding our heads, murmuring “uh-huh,” and half-smiling might placate the speaker into thinking we’ve heard them. And then we can move on to what we want to say or do. Finally.
Except we can’t. We can’t fake really turning toward the other person. That’s not just an act, it’s an orientation. It’s a consistent choice, exercised over a long period of time.
Other-centeredness is the orientation of every great listener. Yes, they show it with their bodies. But their actions are just reflecting an inner reality. And you can’t fake that.