A Few Facts About Listening

In one of last year’s newsletters we shared research data indicating that “listening” is the most important communication skill, and that it is also the most frequently-used communication skill. Unfortunately, it’s also the one at which most of us are the least efficient.

To improve our skills, it might be wise to first recognize a few often-forgotten truths about listening.

To begin, listening should not be confused with “hearing.” Hearing is something we can do without thinking, as in hearing background music or the sounds of traffic while we work or drive. Listening, on the other hand, involves comprehension; it can also have an impact on our audience because others can observe the fact we’re listening to them and they tend to react with positive feelings about us as well as about themselves (i.e., they feel important or that their message is being deemed as important).

In addition, listening should not be confused with having a good memory. If someone does not remember what we tell them it may not be due to the fact they are poor listeners. Some people are unable to retain information over time, despite having listened attentively to those who shared the information with them.

It might also be helpful to recognize the fact that we all have a tendency to refute what others say. In fact, this rebuttal tendency has been identified as one of the top three barriers to good listening because as soon we shift our focus away from what others are saying and instead focus on how we will argue with it, we have compromised our ability to listen.

Similarly, it’s important to recognize that we can’t listen well if we are distracted; and one of the most common distractions involves shifting our focus away from what others are saying and instead focusing on what WE will say or ask next.

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