“I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”.
The word is out, we are all consumers. Did you know that listening is a type of information consumption? Typically, you will spend 45% of your waking hours receptively listening, and most of the communication is ignored, misunderstood or forgotten. Recognisable behaviours of writing, reading, and speaking all are noticeable for acquiring knowledge to understand life. However, listening is an internal process of comprehension; and is given little training (or lack thereof) for the level of quality required.
Importance of Listening
There is a distinction between listening and hearing, much like there is a distinction between seeing and knowing. Listening enables you to hear what people are truly saying, it is more than hearing words. A skill to stay in that moment with the other person, being there to hear the whole meaning while they speak. A present moment awareness not only allows us to hear the words that another person is saying but, also the more important value of the complete message being communicated. Did you know that rather than receiving training in effective listening throughout schooling, the student typically receives anti-listening training. Through demonstrations of inattentiveness, interruptions and bad habits to communication. Compounded with the ridiculously long hours a child must maintain focus to listen, the child gets used to tuning out when people are talking. Jesus quoted “Thou hearest in thy one ear, but the other has closed”. Or “the lips of wisdom are closed, except to the ears of understanding”.
It is helpful to mention the difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is describing the ability to hear soundwaves from the environment with the ears and occurs continuously at a subconscious level. However, listening relates to the conscious involvement of interpreting and grasping the significance of the sensory experience. Basically, listening involves understanding the meaning expressed, not merely repeating the words sent. The word listen is a combination of two Anglo-Saxon words of hlystan, referring to “attend to” and hlosnain, which suggests being “silent in expectation”. So, the act of listening is referring to the combination of attending to sounds with a suspenseful wait.
The primary skill in listening is the ability to consciously maintain focus, and not allowing the drift into subconscious awareness.
- Prepare to listen
- Remove potential interruptions
- Empathize with the speaker
- Wait and be patient
- Pay attention to tone, volume and non-verbals
- Listen for ideas, the whole of what is said
- Note information
- Focus on understanding, summarizing and clarifying
- Respond with appropriate feedback
“If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear”. Mark Twain
Are you really listening to better understand what is being conveyed? Interpersonal communication skills are a much-needed asset in today’s world of information overload.