The art of listening is a long forgotten art of communication. We love to applaud orators and public speakers, often reciting their lines over and over until it becomes our motto. However, when it comes to extending the same courtesy to listeners, we are not as quick to do it as we should be. We rarely show them our gratitude and appreciation for being there for us and lending us their ears. Listeners are just as important as speakers; one cannot fulfil its purpose without the other. The business of becoming a good listener primarily consists of getting rid of bad listening habits and replacing them with their counterpart skills.
Most people can’t differentiate or don’t know the difference between listening and hearing. Listening is something that you consciously choose to do. it requires concentration and the processing of information from words and sentences. It also leads to learning, either subconsciously or consciously. Hearing, however, is simply what you perceive by ear. It happens whether you want it to happen or not, unless you’re hearing impaired. It is an unending process; you hear even while you are asleep.
Since humans are social beings, we crave intimacy with other people. We need someone to talk to or share our feelings with. Conversations are an amazing way to vent out frustrations, express excitement, seek entertainment, pass time, give instructions, pass on messages, dull the pain of heartbreak and seek comfort, etc. If there is no listener, the speaker cannot fulfil these needs. It can lead to added frustration and pain. The speaker may feel sad and lonely, thus feeling inadequate or friendless. Lending them your ears is a great way to help them and be there for them. When you listen better, people like you better and will be drawn to you more. You’ll be a better friend, partner, lover, teacher, employee, parent and human, in general. Overall, you’ll be a happier person just by being there for them and listening to them talk.
Listening is intermittent; it includes responses from the listener and is not just a continuous blabber from the speaker. Listening is a learned skill; not everyone is born a good listener. It requires practice and constant observation of conversations happening around us. Listening is an active action; it calls for both parties to be an active participant and converse in equal parts.
Just because you’re quiet does not mean that you’ve mastered the art of listening.
We all know what makes someone a good listener; listening in rapt attention, understanding the situation and the tone of the speaker, giving out appropriate responses, etc. but what makes someone a bad speaker? Here are top 3 actions that make you a bad listener.
1) You fake listen – The pose of chin propped on hand with gaze fixed on the speaker does not guarantee good listening. Having adopted this pose, having shown the overt courtesy of appearing to listen to the speaker, the bad listener feels conscience free to take off on any of a thousand tangents.
Good listening is not relaxed and passive at all. It’s dynamic; it’s constructive; it’s characterized by a slightly increased heart rate, quicker circulation of the blood, and a small rise in bodily temperature. It’s energy consuming; it’s plain hard work. The best definition I know of the word attention is a “collection of tensions that can be resolved only by getting the facts or ideas that the speaker is trying to convey”.
2) You are distracted – Bad listeners are easily distracted and may even create disturbances that interfere with their own listening efficiency and that of others. They squirm, talk with their neighbours, or shuffle papers. They make little or no effort to conceal their boredom. Good listeners try to adjust to whatever distractions there are and soon find that they can ignore them. Certainly, they do not distract others.
3) You get too emotional – It is a fact that some words carry such an emotional load that they cause some listeners to tune a speaker right out: such as, affirmative action and feminist-they are fighting words to some people.
I sometimes think that one of the most important studies that could be made would be the identification of the one hundred greatest trouble-making words in the English language. If we knew what these words were, we could ring them out into the open, discuss them, and get them behind us. It’s so foolish to let a mere symbol for something stand between us and learning.
Listening occupies a big chunk of the time we spend communicating in the language. Think about the times you spend listening to others speak or listening to songs, news, lectures, YouTube, etc. Recent advances in technology have served to raise the profile of the listening skill in language teaching, provides input that can be very significant for second language acquisition in general and for the development of the speaking skill in particular. It promotes non-linear processing of language and encourages learners to develop “holistic” strategies to texts. Being a good listener can help you to see the world through the eyes of others. It enriches your understanding and expands your capacity for empathy. It also increases your contact with the outside world by helping you improve your communication skills. Good listening skills can provide you with a deeper level of understanding about someone’s situation, and helps to know what words are best to use or which words to avoid. As simple as listening (and acknowledging) may seem, doing it well, particularly when disagreements arise, takes sincere effort and lots of practice. The process of listening includes receiving the information, selecting the important parts, interpreting the conversation the same way that the speaker intends it to be, understanding the conversation, evaluating it and coming to a conclusion or finding a solution. Keenly listening to people can help them relieve stress, alleviate emotional pain, heal mental scars, etc.
Listening with rapt attention does not cost anything other than our time, which we’ve got in plenty. It can change lives as well as save lives. It’s important to keep in mind that listening not only happens through your ears, but also through your heart. Listening includes sympathizing, emphasizing and looking at things through the speakers perspective. If we all just stopped for a moment and took the time out to hear people out, this world with be a very different place, with fewer misunderstandings and more happiness around.