We always talk about listening as being important in the communication process, but it is a valuable skill for more than just that. Listening not only connects you with the speaker, it gives you a brilliant opportunity to expand your own knowledge.
I think when we have conversations, we get into the habit of thinking we always need to be saying something, to appear engaged. But sometimes that over-emphasis on talking leads to a lack of listening, really listening.
Stephen Covey once said: "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."
How true. Listening with the principal intent of forming a good reply seems to be such a common thing. We've all done it, and it is natural to eagerly listen for something to comment on.
But the fact is that if you listen to reply, you're only partially listening.
As a result, you tend to miss the teeny tiny details that mean the most.
We've all had the experience when we're talking and it feels like the other person is not really listening. Sometimes, you can tell that they are not listening at all, and other times you know that they are hearing the words, but not really giving attention to the implication. Do you relate?
Think back to your school days when you weren't really paying attention in class and then your teacher asked you about what she said. Depending on how deeply distracted you were, you may have heard what she said even though your mind was somewhere else.
Well, you heard the words and the sounds she pronounced so you were able to sheepishly reply correctly when she asked you to repeat what she said. But that doesn't mean you were actually listening.
You see what I mean?
I really wanted to write this blog post to bring this idea to my own consciousness so I can work on it, but also to share with my lovely readers.
Just imagine if most of our lives we only really participate in superficial listening like in the example mentioned above. What a disaster that would be. The amount of really insightful and vital information that would slip right away from us...
The fact that listening is a skill also makes me believe that there is hope for quiet people like myself. Maybe you're shy, or not as talkative as most other people, but that's OK. You don't always have to be talking. Quiet people often have the ability of being good listeners, they get a lot of practice at it. If you're a quiet listener, your role in the conversation is just as important as the speaker.
The quote at the beginning of this article says: "When you talk you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new."
I think it's quite a powerful quote because it displays how valuable the act of listening is. You learn more. You understand more. Listening gives you the opportunity to give comfort to someone who needs a listening ear, and you can only really be compassionate when you listen to someone's words and the feelings conveyed through those words.
So friends, let's all try to be better listeners. The next time someone tells you something that's important to them, like an experience they had, really listen. Feel how passionate they are about the subject, and perhaps understand what they want you to be feeling as they share the idea/news with you.
You'll understand that person a lot better, and be able to pick up a lot more than just the phonetic words they speak.
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