The Art of Listening
Most of us think we know how to listen. We believe because we have two ears, it’s automatic. Think about what it was like for you as a child when you wanted the attention of an adult in your life.
What were you told? “Honey, not now.” “I’m busy.” “Maybe later.” “Go outside and play.”
Sound familiar? We’re not taught how to listen. We’re taught how NOT to listen. And, consequently, we develop some very interesting habits. You’re probably familiar with two of them — whichever end you’ve been on!
The Mental Rebuttal
Have you ever been engaged in a conversation with someone and the person said something that made you angry or that you disagreed with? Did you continue to actually listen to the person — or did you start to immediately begin thinking about what you were going to say in response ... before he or she had even finished?
Even if the person has valid thoughts to follow, we’re not listening any longer ... our minds are busy figuring out our objections. We’re trying to fight the whole argument in our mind — sometimes even coming up with the imagined responses the person will make to the reply and how we’ll handle that!
Through science and the study of human behavior, we’ve learned we don’t have the physical ability to think about one thing and listen to something else. Can’t do it. Why do you think so many states are beginning to pass laws against driving while talking on our cell phones? Studies have shown talking on our cell phones while we’re driving impairs our ability to react quickly in an emergency as much if not more than driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol!
And yet, the constant barrage of information from technology is so distracting ... the pressures to know everything “now, now, now” ... that we don’t take the time to focus on a face-to-face conversation! Instead, people are checking email, glancing at their phone, trying to multitask in order to save time — when really, it’s wasting everyone’s.
Let me share some statistics with you about listening:
Listening skills are poorest when we interact with the people we are closest to — our family members and friends.
Most people rate themselves as poor listeners.
Pretty sad indictment of our listening condition, isn’t it? If it’s the way we were brought up ... if it’s all we’ve ever done ... how can we correct it?
By making up our minds we are going to develop the art and skill of listening.
Think of someone you know you would classify as a good listener. You’ve had them in your life, I’m sure of it. Those people who know how to make us feel important when we talk.
What characteristics do they possess?
Listening is a skill! And like any skill, we can develop it, practice, and become really good. If we want to.
We can choose to improve our situations ... or we can choose not to. The power rests with us. Remember, if we’re not willing to listen to and understand them, then it’s patently unreasonable for us to expect them to listen to and understand us.
So turn off the cell phone. Try to halt the mental replies in your mind where you answer the questions that haven’t even been asked. Think about those whose listening skills you admire — and start emulating them ... because practice really does make perfect. Remember, you can always be ready to honestly say “Can you give me a minute? I really want to think about what you’ve told me before I respond.”
The information in this article came from National Seminars and STAR12’s Building Better Team Communication training. Sign up for this course or one of our other great training sessions at NationalSeminarsTraining.com today!
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Great Article! The contents & message is so clear and true. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.
I am currently taking a class in Interpersonal Communication and this is the exact topic that we are covering this week. I did not realize how much I was guilty of not listening when others were talking. I also learned the affect and characteristics of verbal and nonverbal communication. Thank you for this article,like previous ones I have really enjoyed reading it.
I WISH MORE PEOPLE COULD READ THIS AND THINK ABOUT
Good information! I believe this is an area where most people can improve on.
Greatly appreciate this article and the stats it provided around listening. Identifying behaviors of good listeners creates a great opportunity to recognize what one would need to do in order to effectively listen.
Thanks for the article.
The article would have been more beneficial to me with some "bulleted" highlights about why we do NOT listen; then some key strategies in a bulleted format on ways to improve listening skills. (A quicker read).
Thanks this is terrific and timely information.
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