I think I’m a pretty good listener – BUT that being said I know I still commit some listening no-no’s. For instance I sometimes find myself thinking about what I”M going to say next instead of giving my full attention to the person speaking. And sometimes what they are talking about leads me in a different direction of thinking because when they said “puppy” I started to think about my cats and then …….. Well, you get my point. Try as hard as we might when we HEAR words coming out of someone’s mouth we aren’t always really LISTENING. Let’s talk about the difference for a minute or two.
Really – I was listening…..
Hearing is the act of perceiving sound. It just happens. It’s a physical ability Listening is a choice, a skill. Once we hear a sound we make a choice whether or not to attend to that sound – pay attention/focus. When someone is listening they are actually paying attention to the words being spoken with an intent to understand the other person. Wow ! A lot more complicated than just hearing yada,yada, yada, huh? A great quote on LiveStrong website is “Hearing is through the ears. Listening is through the mind.” http://www.LiveSTRONG.com
What goes wrong in the process? To really listen there are four steps to be completed:
- Hearing – sound enters ears
- Attending- Brain receives sound and decides to (OR NOT) pay attention
- Understanding – takes in messages and applies it or questions for clarification, gives feedback to speaker
- Remembering – commits what has been said to memory for future retrieval if necessary, stores for use at a later time
But He Just Doesn’t Listen…..Or Does He?
And this is usually where we need to put on the brakes. Did we really pay attention? If we didn’t understand did we ask questions? AND did we let the speaker know they were being heard and understood? Women do this by being active listeners, by adding mmm;s, and “I agree,” or “yeah” throughout the process to show they are listening. Men tend to listen passively but this does not mean they are not listening. Important note: If you don’t think someone is listening ASK for feedback. While women are active, nodding, interjecting, laughing, men make statements at the end of what is being said more often.
When men communicate it is more informational, offering opinions or suggestions. Because this is so different from woman to woman communication this form of informational feedback may not assure a woman that she is being “heard” or listened to. A man’s style is more topic focused on the message level while the woman is more relationship directed or metamessage in form. A great book on the topic of men and women communications is YOU JUST DON”T UNDERSTAND by Deborah Tannen, PhD. For a deeper look at communication and the relationship problems derived from miscommunication, listening I suggest you check it out.
Listening – It’s personal…for all of us
Why am I going on about this? Because it is a topic near and dear to my heart. Tom is one of the sweetest men in the world but our communication needs some work. Maybe it was a need for hearing aides but…..after several months with hearing aides I think it may be a listening skill. I am part of the problem as well. I forget to ask for feedback and I don’t write down reminders . These is a lot going on in both of our lives and I don’t always pick the best time to ask him to listen to the important stuff. I know remembering details is not his strong suit and even harder when other things are on his mind.
When you know someone you communicate with frequently may not be the best listener, may have other things demanding his or her attention, or may have memory problems think about how you can maximize their listening by choosing the time to discuss important topics. Write down important dates and events or the important points of your conversaton if necessary, especially if their memory skills are poor. If you regognize a problem be part of the solution.
Another Part of the Solution, Become a Better Listener
For those of us who could use a brush up on being a better listener:
- Communication is a two way street. Give and take. Don’t monopolize the conversation. Ask if your listener understands then let them give you feed back.
- Some people are fixers. If you aren’t looking for a solution, you just need to be heard/listened to, make that clear at the beginning of the conversation. I fall short in this area. I DON’T want someone to fix my situation most of the time – I just need to feel listened to. AND as the listener I tend to want to jump in and fix things. Remind me – if you only want me to listen tell me that at the outset so I DO listen and not try to come up with a solution.
- Don’t interupt.
- Keep an open mind. Ask questions before you make assumptions about what has been said.
- Make direct eye contact with the person who is speaking.
- Write it down if you need to remember what is being said
A Reason to” Listen” to this message
Pastor Randy Creamer, a Counselor and Life Couch has a meaningful quote I’d like to end with. “A world where we hear but don’t listen will keep us from connecting to others…..The most intimate part of a person is what they think and how they feel about what they think. When real listening occurs there is a sense of “you understand me” that happens. It is a basic human need to know and be known.” http://www.TimetoHeal.com