Do you listen when someone speaks?
Listening is an important part of communication. It’s simple, someone has an intention to communicate. So they say something and /or use non-verbal methods to send you a message. You listen, observe and then feedback.
Listening is more than hearing. When we hear something we are picking up the sound waves. In contrast, when we listen properly we hear, acknowledge and try to make sense of what has been said. We then connect with the sender by giving feedback through verbal and body language.
Well, that is what should happen but if we fail to listen we don’t receive the right message at the beginning of the process!
Ultimately actively listening requires your full attention.
And if you don’t get the message it can make you feel anxious.
But the problem is that everyone wants to speak first and get their message across.
Everyone’s message is important and in this busy modern world, we are all competing to say what we need to say as fast as we can. This is why so many people resort to digital communication to ensure that there is no dispute that a message has been sent.
Furthermore, if we use social media we can get our message out to the world with a click on the send button.
Why does listening matter?
Poor listening skills can result in major problems in business and disasters in personal life.
Failure to listen, or not listen properly can have personal and financial costs.
The price of poor listening is high.
If someone wants to give you a message, it’s important to them.
Failure to listen will result in:
- poor information exchange that could be vital to health and business
- individual hurt
- stress and anxiety
- frustration or anger
- difficulty understanding
- difficulties with team cohesion
- assumptions and misunderstandings
- errors in judgement and errors in action
- ineffective decision making
- can reduce productivity
We all feel frustrated when people don’t listen to us because we are trying to get a message across so the same happens when you don’t listen to others.
As a teacher of counselling, I have noticed over the years that many people believe that they do listen well, but actually, they still butt in and do not get the message that is intended.
Good listening is difficult because it’s no longer part of our culture, the speed of information change has increased and we feel that we don’t have enough time.
However, there are also many barriers to good listening skills and communication in general.
What are the barriers to good listening?
There are lots of obstacles that include:
- Your fear of not being heard
- Being defensive and expecting an attack
- Your physical and mental state
- Beliefs and attitudes
- Your thoughts get triggered by what has been said so you distract yourself away from the rest of the conversation
- Physical barriers such as masks and perspex shields since COVID restrictions
- Other noises such as the television or noise in an office
- The environment including temperature
- A poor message sender
- Putting your interpretations into the conversation before the topic has been heard.
- Different language
- You avoid listening to opposing ideas to yours
- Power. If someone in authority tells you what to do and you don’t want to, you won’t listen well
- Incongruent body language
If you don’t listen it can have an impact on many areas of your life. For example, your relationships at home, your attitudes to things, and even your health if you don’t listen and respond to the right information.
How to improve your listening skills
It all starts with your intention to listen and improve communication.
Here are a few tips that will help.
- Resist distractions in your environment. If it’s too noisy try to move, explain that you can’t hear or reschedule the conversation
- Listen to your own emotions. If you are stressed, anxious or angry it will be difficult to listen effectively so explain to the sender that you are not at your best or make alternative arrangements till you feel better.
- Don’t do other tasks while you are listening. You won’t concentrate and may miss vital words.
- Confirm the message that you are receiving from the sender.
- Clarify the message if it’s not clear by asking questions.
- Learn to value others perspectives. You might not agree with what someone is saying and you might have evidence that they are wrong but you do need to respect others’ views.
- Practice listening more.
Learn to listen and you will be amazed how you become a great communicator, get more respect and influence.
Finally, did you know that counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists are trained to listen and offer the space for you to be listened to? If you need to say something and be listened to in a non-judgemental and empathetic way consider visiting a counsellor.
I’m Linda from Awaken the Change. I help people to reduce their stress and anxiety or express their emotions of grief and loss with counselling. I really listening. Added to this I also provide training and supervision for qualified and trainee counsellors and hypnotherapists.