“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know; But when you listen, you may learn something new.”
— Dalai Lama
The art of effective communication
The art of effective communication comes in many forms and variables, but the art of listening is arguably the most important of them all. How well do you feel you listen to others during conversation? – Is it something you’ve even thought about? Perhaps not. Unless we’re cutting people off mid-conversation and getting our friends angry, it’s highly unlikely that your listening skills would ever be brought to attention. But after reading this article, I hope that I can highlight an area of your communication that can be greatly improved with some simple tweaks, if you simply take a moment to analyse how you actually listen to others.
Listening headache example
You’re having a light conversation with a good friend, explaining something funny that you observed today while driving to work. When suddenly, your friend eagerly interrupts. Perhaps a similar experience has happened to him? In the good spirit of communication, he corrects his sudden interruption and apologises, signalling for you to continue. Cheers dude. But, as you continue your story, it’s clear your friend is simply waiting for you to stop talking so he can say what he wanted to say after all. At face value, nothing seems to be wrong. But it’s clear that your friend has now surrendered his attention while he waits for your ending, effectively leaving our communication compromised.
The above example is a very common listening issue that many of us are possibly guilty of from time to time without even knowing it. This simple breakdown of attention often makes a conversation tedious in the struggle to get your turn on the podium. But why does this even happen in the first place? It’s highly important to firstly recognise why listening can break down in this way before we talk about a possible fix.
With our example above your friend’s attention was almost certainly broken due to the fact that our funny car story had no relevance to him whatsoever. Quite selfish wouldn’t you say? Sure, but perfectly natural. The attention span of many will falter with continuous discussion that doesn’t concern them. This varies from person to person greatly, with some people never allowing a sentence to pass over them without some sort of context they can relate to. The natural fix to this problem for many is to relate to the person’s story in some sort of fashion that will allow you to enter the conversation. But guess what? This is not effective communication, and this is simply hijacking somebody’s air time because you don’t actually want to listen. You want to talk.
Ramifications of poor listening
Do I have to explain the ramifications of such a habit? Misunderstandings and frustration from others unable to convey their message to start with. Perhaps like the build up of plaque, it goes unnoticed from day to day as the damage is harmless in the moment. But the inevitable frustration of poor listening is added to our reputation with time and is represented in your social standing to others.
Making a conscious effort to actually listen to others is an essential part of effective listening. I truly have to emphasise the importance of this. If you don’t manually make a conscious effort to listen to others during discussion, you will fall into the habits of a wondering brain which will bring your listening skills down to mediocrity without a moment’s hesitation. Effective listening may come easy to many, but if you leave the mind to naturally deal with the intricacies of listening it will often fall victim to many of the common listening blocks that happen from time to time, including but not limited to:
- This conversation has no relevance to me whatsoever. (already covered)
- Speed this up, I haven’t got all day.
- I’ve already heard this, or something similar.
- I’m not enjoying this.
- I don’t respect this person.
Any of these blocks might be truly relevant at any given moment during a conversation. Maybe you have heard something similar, but the art of listening shouldn’t be hindered by old patterns and you owe it to the other person to truly listen to their message and understand what they’re trying to portray. It is quite easy for a listener of any conversation to begin judging what is being heard before the entire statement is concluded. This can obviously be a big problem because during the time the listener is preparing their response; the listener is potentially missing what is being said or is missing the true essence of the statement due to this sudden shift in attention.
FIXING THE BAD HABITS:
In this conclusion, I emphasise that the fix to bad listening habits is the conscious effort of manually listening and allowing somebody the decency of unhindered air time. If whatever reason you don’t feel you can give somebody your undivided attention, pipe up and explain that you’re busy, distracted or you’re not feeling up to a discussion. But let it be known to all those who know you, that if they engage in conversation with you that they’ll always get your undivided attention. Your relationships will flourish as a result.
Ask yourself today, do I ever enact any of the following bad listening habits?
- Do you often turn the conversation back to yourself?
- Do you often dive in and finish the sentences of others?
- If you find somebody is unclear, do you lose patience?
- Do you multi-task – While reassuring the listener that you’re still listening?
If so, today is the day to change that