As I was listening to a radio show recently, I heard an interesting scenario play out. Presumably, the caller wanted the host’s advice. As the host responded to the caller’s situation, the caller immediately started to disagree with the host’s suggestion. The host re-asserted himself, but the caller continued to argue. At that point, the call was over because the host decided to stop the nonsense and disconnected the call.
The fascinating thing to me was how obvious it was that the caller was not listening. This was not a political show where the host often disagrees with callers. The format for this particular show is one where people call to ask for advice, but this caller refused to listen. I can only imagine how frustrating it was for the host.
Let me bring this a little closer to home. How many of us have failed to listen when our spouse was talking? I will raise my hand! When I start zoning out and mumbling “uh-huh” without actually listening, my wife can see it a mile away. She now inserts a wild comment (usually it involves purple hair!) to test if I am paying attention.
Listening is not a passive activity. It takes action to absorb and process what is being said whether in a conversation or in a lecture/podcast/etc… Here are three fundamental ideas to remember about listening.
- Attentive listening shows respect. When I am half-heartedly listening, I am communicating that the message and its deliverer are not worth my full attention. This is most important in conversations with other individuals. Since respect is part of the recipe for a healthy relationship I must be conscious of engaging in active listening.
- The myth of multitasking. I first heard this from John Meese a blogger I read online. Many people claim to be great multi-taskers but it appears that most research (Google multitasking research) indicates otherwise. This article says that multitasking damages your brain. Listening and trying to do something else at the same time divides our focus. It is impossible to focus on two different things at one time – just try it with your eyes!
- Much of listening is nonverbal. Nonverbal communication includes various clues such as eye contact, body movements, facial expressions, and posture. Good listening habits require us to pay attention to these various forms of nonverbal communication. A presenter’s nonverbal cues will influence the message that the audience hears. The clues referenced above all facilitate the relational connection between the parties involved in an exchange.
Listening is a skill that can be improved. I hope the ideas above will help point you in the right direction for self-evaluation and improvement.
Question: What tips do you have for being a better listener? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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