When you listen to someone speak, are you really listening to them … or are you listening to the voice in your head?
We all learn as a part of our syllabus the dissimilarity between listening and hearing. But do we really know the difference? More often than not, hearing and listening are used interchangeably.
Hearing is a natural sense that allows you to detect sounds. But to be a listener, you have to really pay attention. However, according to a study by Microsoft, the average human being has an attention span of 8 seconds. Now with such a low attention span, are we really a good listener?
Why aren’t we a good listener?
People have ears that hear very well, but seldom have they acquired the necessary aural skills that will allow those ears to be used more effectively for what is called Listening!
How many times have you been in conversations with friends, family members, and loved ones and completely tuned out to what they are saying? Though this happens to everyone from time to time, it’s important for each of us to think about how often this occurs in our daily lives. An average person listens at only about 25 percent efficiency. Meaning there’s a lot we’re letting in one ear and out the other. But why are we so bad at it?
For one thing, as a society, we may be growing more narcissistic. A recent University of California, Los Angeles study showed that the language we use (our popular word choices) may reflect that we are a more self-centered culture. A 2007 study further found that there is a rise in self-centeredness and narcissism among college students.
Behind this widespread inability to listen lies in my opinion, a major oversight in our system of classroom instruction. We have focused attention on reading, considering it the primary medium by which we learn. Our civilization is full of great books on how to speak, but sadly no one has ever written a book called ‘The Listener’. We have practically forgotten the art of listening.
The art of listening
Oftentimes the listening is all about just waiting until it is our turn to talk again, which means we are only marginally listening . . . at best. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.
“Anyone who has shared something personal and received a thoughtless or uncomprehending response knows how it makes your soul want to crawl back into its hiding place,” – Kate Murphy
One way to be a good listener is to examine the intention with which you are listening. Listening to someone just to respond to them or refute their point is not a good listening practice. Good listeners listen with empathy, patience, and understanding. However, active, effective listening isn’t something you can do on the fly. It requires a conscious effort. If you’re not listening to what people are saying, then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment or worse. I am sure that’s not where you want to land on.
Tips for being a better listener
Here are a few tips to help you become a better listener:
Be Aware: Listening means being quiet. Don’t talk over others or talk too much, and always pay attention.
Know Your Triggers: This is another way of saying be cognizant of your patterns. Don’t mindlessly follow them, as it gets in the way of hearing what the other person is saying.
Minimize Distractions: You’re not going to hear something important if you’re in the middle of a windstorm, so make sure the environment is set up for conversation.
Listen Before Replying: Don’t just speak for the sake of speaking. Wait until you’re expected to give a response.
Pause and Repeat: After you’ve been told something, it can help to stop, say it back and make sure that you understood it. Obviously don’t make it like you are reciting.
Observe Styles: Knowing the type of speaker you’re listening to can help you better understand what they’re saying, such as if they’re creative or logical, introverted or extroverted. It also helps to know what management style they use.
Continue Learning: Listening is an informative process, and so you should never stop learning.
Listening seems to have become a forgotten art. Start with being mindful and thoroughly aware of your environment. When you’re fully aware of the moment, you’re more likely to retain what you’re hearing and respond with more authenticity. That means stashing those phones and ridding yourself of all distractions.
If you want to rate your listening skill, take up this quiz here!