Listening is perhaps the most important piece of communicating. Great speakers have always been great listeners. The famous philosopher Socrates said that the person who listens is the person who controls the discussion. If we consider that we are all born with two ears and one mouth, it makes sense to conclude that we’re meant to listen more and talk less.
It is very important to know the difference between hearing and listening. We hear all sounds that are around us, but we actually only listen to a part of what we can hear. Listening means to pay attention and responding to what we hear. Listening is a choice: we choose what we focus on.
Auditory communicators are good listeners because they can quickly process what they hear. We must remember that auditory communication is a two-sided challenge. First, we must listen to others. Next, we must get them to listen to us.
The 1st step to practicing good listening skills is to listen to ourselves. We all have an inner voice that always talks to us. It tells us what to do and what not to; what’s right and what’s wrong. This inner voice often gives us good advice and helps us make the right choices. We have to be careful though, because sometimes it expresses negative and limiting ideas. For example, it tells us that we’re not good enough or that we are likely to fail.
When it is at its best however, it tells us that we’re great and encourages us by saying things like “I’m the best!” and “Yes I can!” Listening like a leader also means ignoring anything negative or harmful to our personal growth. We must choose to only listen to the voices that makes us stronger and let the other ones go.
The next task in practicing good listening skills is to not only hear, but to actually listen to other people. When our parents or our teachers speak with us it is easy to hear what they say, but sometimes it’s not so easy to actually pay attention and respond. In other words, sometimes it’s not so easy to listen to them. The same thing happens with our siblings, mentors and friends.
As we said before, we cannot listen without hearing, but we can hear without listening. Hearing does not take much effort, yet on the other hand, we only listen when we choose to. Going further, listening also requires a response by the listener. That makes communication an interactive situation. As listeners, we can respond by nodding our heads, holding eye contact, and by using different sounds like “uh-huh” and “hmmm.”
(article to be continued next week…)
Excerpts in this article were taken from the ATA Leadership Life Skill Books