Why are we such poor listeners then?
Two reasons come to mind as to why we are poor listeners.
- When we plug-in, we are listening to what we want to hear and, often times, we are canceling out all surrounding noise through the latest technology or through very loud volumes.
- When we plug-in, we are also talking at the same time. Think mobile phones.
Listening has become selective. We only hear what we want to hear.
Listening has become a flood. With so much information coming at us, we can only absorb so much.
We are lost in an information soaked world. Although more information should translate into more listening, the opposite has happened.
Why is listening important?
In listening, we gain understanding. Listening translates information into deeper meaning, more educated responses.
How can we listen better?
- Practice. Turn all sounds completely off when driving home, and just listen and think.
- Stop talking. Ask open-ended questions and then listen and enjoy.
- Center. Focus on one channel at a time as often as possible.
- Listen with your eyes. Look at the person you are having a conversation with and focus with your eyes and ears. Ensure your expressions are conveying absorption of content.
- Repeat. If you did not quite catch what someone was saying, repeat it to gain clarification. “What I heard you say is…”
For me, practicing silence is essential to retake the art of listening. Maybe it’s the silence which heightens my ability to listen again. Or, maybe it’s just a way to lose myself in thought for a short time in order to open myself to listening actively when I arrive at the next destination.
Listen better for understanding’s sake.