Are You Listening To Me?

When we engage in conversation, most of us are speaking but few of us are listening. We don't pay attention to
listen more than you speak and you'll go places
listen more than you speak and you'll go places

Today I launch a new category of posts known as “Leadership”.  With it, I begin with a topic on listening.

When we engage in conversation, most of us are speaking but few of us are listening.  We don’t pay attention to what the other person is saying.  Here’s a test, recall the last conversation you had with a person.  What was it about?  Now ask yourself, what did the other person really say?  If you don’t remember, chances are, you were too focussed on what you wanted to say to pay attention to what the other person was saying. 

Unfortunately, when we take this approach, it never solves anything.  Discussions go nowhere, conflicts never get resolved, consensus is never reached and wars are never won.  Why? Because we never take the time to listen to the other person’s point of view.  Maybe the other person has something credible to add?

Think about the last time you called a tech support hotline with a problem.  Did the support person really listen to what you were saying?  If not, how did it make you feel?  That is exactly how the other person feels.

There are two types of listening we do, the first is “passive listening”, which is where we listen, but we really don’t pay attention.  The second is “active listening”, which is where we actually pay attention and absorb the other persons point of view.   Stephen Covey, speaks about “Empathic Listening” which I will touch in a moment as well.

Active listening will allow us to understand another’s point of view.  But it involves a bit of practise.  In order to actually do this you need to do the following things when listening to another person:

  1. Make eye contact – looking into the eyes of the person you’re talking to will not only show a sincere sign of respect, but it will help you to pay attention as well.  Try and maintain eye contact as much as you can.  If you eye’s wander, you may find yourself distracted with things around you and lose concentration of what the person is saying.
  2. Keep an open mind – we all have opinions and beliefs and theres nothing wrong with that.  But if we let those deter us from even giving the other person a chance, then we might as well not have any conversation at all because at this point we’re not ready to accept that the other person might have anything credible to say.
  3. Clear your mind – these days, we have a million and one things on our minds at any given time.  Unfortunately these thoughts can be very distracting.  There’s no such thing as multi-tasking.  We, as humans can only process one thing at a time because we only have one brain.  So if we’re thinking about something, then we’re not paying attention.  Making eye contact is a great way to clear your mind.
  4. Let the person finish – if we don’t give that person a chance to complete their thought, then how can we really hear what they have to say?  It also means that we’re busy thinking of what we wanted to respond with instead of paying attention.

Now I mentioned “Emphatic Listening”.   Which is a part of the 5th habit of his “7 Habits of Highly Effective People“.  Emphatic listening involves active listening but without responding with any advice, opinion or course of action.  It involves simply listening and reiterating what the person says.  He uses an example about interacting with teenagers.  Teenagers simply just want to be heard and don’t usually ask for opinions.  Stephen’s approach is aimed at letting the other person get what they want to say and feel off their chest.  It allows for the person to reach their own conclusion and unlock the heart of the matter on their own.  A lot of times, what they are complaining about isn’t the real problem and listening allows them to guide themselves to the real problem.

So there you have it, active listening is a great skill to have and can help you to resolve conflicts.  Its a bit tricky to learn at first but can be picked up in a short amount of time.  Emphatic listening, however is a much more difficult skill to learn because it forces us to put our beliefs and opinions on the sidelines and simply just listen.

Happy speeching.


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