One of the critical communicative skills we never got much of or none at all is how to listen. Do you remember any teacher or parent sitting you down and telling you he/she was going instruct you on how to listen…really listen? I think not.
Now hearing, on the other hand, is a given. Most of us got blessed with that ability shortly out of the womb. Now, like so many of us in our age band makes normal hearing a very distant luxury. In my case, Rock & Roll drums and 200 decimal AF jets on afterburner blasted my hearing during my young and dumb days. Still, we seasoned seniors have the wire and battery gadgets in the ears so don’t feel sorry for us.
We all received reading and arithmetic along the way but never the proper way to handle a clear conversation between one or more parties. And depending on our value system and ego nourished into adulthood, we still stumble through life thinking we are doing right by thinking we can say more of a profound statement than our fellow talkers. If he would only shut up, so I can talk!
Let me interpret and have you grasp the existence of a profound phenomenon we human beings are stuck with:
• We speak verbally around 100 to 120 words a minute
• We compute in our brains around 400 words a minute
Do you get it? While our communicator friend is slowly taking to us at his/she normal conversational pace, we have the ability to be thinking about…
What I am going to do this weekend; Do I have enough dog food for Fido this week; Does my friend really dye her hair??? Etc?
This difference between speaking speed and brain speed means that when we listen to the average speaker, we’re using only 25 percent of our mental capacity. We still have 75 percent to do something else.
That something else is a wandering mind. While you are filling in the blanks of your mind with trivial and every now and then saying “OK” or “Yes, of course,” you are merely hearing, not active listening.
Active listening is the skill you never got. Active listening is the process of listening attentively while someone else speaks, paraphrasing and reflecting back what is said, and withholding judgment and advice.
It’s a challenge to be a good listener. But good listeners get big rewards. You gain a lot of friends. But it’s hard work. Try a few if these techniques, the next time you team up with friend or relative who has something of his/her importance to tell you that you’re not sure you want to listen.
Nod your head and make good eye contact and eyebrow “flash”
- Reinforce the discussion with “tell me more…” or “sounds like…”
- Make facial express and smile often
- Ask questions and paraphrase points made by your speaker
- Sit still, be quiet, cancel out other things you are doing (i.e., cell phone)
- Listen not merely to the words but the underlying feelings
- Be aware of your own feelings and strong opinions.
These steps are simple; however, becoming skilled in active listening requires considerable practice and sensitivity towards another human being sitting across from you with the same needs you have.
555 words/ 2-minutes/42 seconds