I love to listen! To me, listening to people not only promotes a greater understanding of what they are trying to get across, but it assures that there will be very little misunderstanding of who they are. However what it really does is maximizes effective communication, something we should all strive for. To actively listen to each other is a valuable communication skill that we can learn very easily and will improve all areas of our lives.
Today people tell me that I am a great listener, but when I tell you this came against all odds that would be an understatement. You see, I have the original old school father. Even though he never served in the army, I could not tell. When he spoke to you, you were permitted to answer in one simple sentence. “Yes, daddy”. No daddy.” “I understand daddy”. Now, if you really made him mad you got two sentences. “Yes daddy. I won’t do it again daddy”. No compound sentences for my father! “Daddy I did it, but… ” oh no, that kind of sentence was a definite no, no. The other thing about him was you better get your point across to him in 30 seconds or less. He had no patience to listen. He believed if it went more than that then you had to be lying or coming up with some scheme. My brother got caught in that one so many times, and most of the time he was coming up with a scheme. Having grown up under these conditions really affected my communicating confidence. However, in school it was a different story. I had a teacher who encouraged me to speak up. She felt I was bright with an analytical mind. She realized I did not actively listen and she was right, I mean what was the point if all I could do in return was agree or disagree, simply. She made me aware that my natural inclination to being sympathetic and patient would make me an excellent listener, and from there it was easy, all I had to do was just filter and get clarification if I needed it before I answered. She stressed to me how the world needs good listeners. Even then I knew that doing something for the greater good of the world was something that vastly appealed to me. I made a point to practice that whenever I could and it truly saved my life once I started working in corporate America. I had the “good fortune” to work for some of the most short attention span bosses EVER. If you did not grab their attention in the first 5 seconds, you have now lost 50% of their listening ability and needless to say whatever you needed you may get, BUT more than likely not. Being able to start off conversations with them that included elements from previous conversation they had given, never failed to keep their attention. Caroll, you shall now advance to the head of the class, score!!!
Have you ever been speaking to someone and you can literally see the wheels churning in their head preparing an answer for you and you haven’t even finished your thought? Some do it so intently, that you can even sense it over the phone! Yep, this is definitely a communication buster. Give your full attention, use self-control and if needs be ask them to repeat what they have said to assure you are using the facts as well as your feelings to promote an effective communication session. After all what do people want most when speaking to each other, we want to make sure we are heard. I gave up on that as a child. My father’s style of communicating did nothing to encourage this, but thankfully I see and know it to be different. Reassure them by giving positive feed back like saying “I hear you” or “I am interested” or “please tell me more”. What I find to be an increasingly troublesome situation is when we hear something that is totally different from what the person is saying. It takes literally no time for us to insert our assumptions, personal beliefs defensive attitude and oh yeah judgements into a conversation, and if we do not take a minute to restate to them what we think they are saying, we can blurt out a response so off-key it can very well start an argument or at the very least have that person leave feeling hurt and upset. The sad part is it was not our intention for this to happen, but once it has been said, the old adage “you can’t take it back” flashes before us like a neon light.
Today, with our lives using more and more digital communication we really should take some extra time in this area. My father did the best he could. Today I have a son and since he was 6 he has been telling me long, drawn out stories. He is almost 14 and it has not changed. I could never use my father’s way of communicating to parent my child. I encourage him to tell me how he feels and some days I do have pause for cause on that, but I digress. It is a wonderful thing, communication. When practiced with patience and lack of judgement. I know that we can agree that it is a skill which we can finesse and doing so will promote many, many positive outcomes because as I said before, we all just want to be heard!