No matter who you are, some part of your day involves listening to another person. This could be at work, in a college lecture hall, at the McDonald’s cashier, or even while watching television.
The average person takes in 20,000 to 30,000 words in the span of a day. That’s a lot of words!
Listening is defined as giving attention to sound or action. It involves hearing what someone is saying and trying to understand what it means.
Imagine a distraught friend pulls you aside to rant about an unfortunate event that happened with them recently. Giving them the space to let it out and listening to them can positively affect the person’s well-being because you are making them feel heard.
Listening is crucial because it creates understanding.
Consider this: would the world be different if governments and country leaders listened and understood each other? Would we be facing less conflict?
Even though listening sounds simple, it is not easy to listen well.
As Julian Treasure said in his TedTalk, “It is almost tiring to listen now. We have created recordings, we have become impatient, we want sound bites, we want the information fast and we want it now.”
Following are some ways you can become a better listener:
‘Intentional Listening’ means getting out of your own head and away from your perceptions, biases, and ideas to truly hear the other person. Listen and try to empathise without comparing what is being said to your own beliefs and perceptions of the subject.
Another easy step you can take is to remove distractions. A friend of mine did this by always making sure not to keep her phone on the table whenever we were out for lunch together. It creates space for attentive discussions.
How often do we find ourselves sitting across the table from a friend, listening to their problems, while scrambling in our heads for a good solution or response to what they are saying? Instead of fully listening, we are concerned about how to react to what we are being told.
Does this make us bad people? No. It just means that our objective at that point is to reply (in the form of consolation or a solution), not necessarily to simply listen and understand. Of course, sometimes what the friend needs is a solution but other times, all they need is some empathy.
Listen with your eyes
You may have come across this excerpt in a book by Mitch Albom that speaks volumes.
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I have seen people sit down to watch a TV show they were looking forward to, and still be staring at their phone screens during it to play candy crush or scroll through Instagram. We are constantly choosing to stay distracted. In this scenario it’s just a show, but this habit can play into our real life conversations too.
Eye contact is so important when making connections. It lets the other person know that your focus is on them. You can provide emotional responses such as sympathy through eye contact and also gauge their body language and tone of voice through looking at them.
Listening is a necessity if you want to maintain healthy relationships, spark communication and establish understanding.
These are just a few ways which will hopefully get us started on becoming a better listener!