“You have to listen better,” your acting teacher says. So you really look at the other person, laser focus on them and say to yourself, “Listen… listen… listen… “
Then you see the playback and you look like a psychotic deer caught in alien headlights. You’re straining and bug-eyed and robotic. Why does the work look so inauthentic? The only thing you were focused on was listening better!
But not really. The only thing you were listening to was your own voice repeating that word over and over in your head until it lost all meaning. When you’re doing that you can’t possibly be listening to the other person.
This word “listening” is thrown around a lot. It’s often accompanied by “being present” and “living in the moment.” But do you really know how to listen and be present?
Sure you do; you do it every day when you’re not acting. In fact, you do it unconsciously in just about every moment in your life. But when you’re acting, you’re so self-conscious and focused on impressing your audience that this innate ability suddenly feels as foreign as eating with your toes.