|We can all recall
situations where we have utterly failed to listen to what someone
else is saying. For various reasons, we are simply not taking in
anything useful. How many times have you been introduced to a person
by name only to not know what their name is thirty seconds later?
The reason this
happens is because you have failed to actively listen. By
italicizing the word “actively”, it might suggest that actively
listening is different to plain old listening. In truth, there are
only two states when we are communicating with another person:
actively listening, and not really listening.
Active listening is
the art of listening for meaning. For us to gain meaning from the
words of another person, we need to be listening carefully. Meaning
is not necessarily assured even when we are actively listening, but
we will at least know that we don’t understand, and can
therefore ask the correct questions to gain enlightenment.
must become a habit because it is the foundation of effective
communication. Imagine a troop commander not really listening to his
orders and attacking the wrong target. A failure to actively listen
can certainly have dire consequences.
Many people give the
appearance of listening but fail to really hear what is being said
to them. They assume that listening is such a basic sense that it
will happen automatically. This is not the case. Or it might be that
they are so used to making all the outward gestures of listening
that they are convinced it is really happening. It is not difficult
to pick up on tone of voice, body language and facial expressions,
all of which indicate the gist of what is being said. All it then
takes is to hear a few key words and it becomes very easy to think
you have understood everything you’ve been told, and to give the
convincing impression that this is so by returning appropriate tone
of voice, body language and facial expressions.
requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what
they are being told. Without this, communication is nothing but a
façade, which may suffice when you are passing the time of day
talking to a neighbor in the street, but is wholly inadequate in any
business environment. As businesses depend on human interaction to
succeed, the quality of that interaction must be of the highest
caliber, and interaction means communication.
There are many
reasons why people fail to listen properly. They may be distracted
by an activity they are attempting whilst listening, or by other
thoughts in their head they deem to be more important, or they might
be thinking about what they are going to say next, which is a common
flaw in communication between parties whose opinions differ.
focuses attention on the speaker. It involves the listener
subjugating their own needs for a while in deference to those of the
speaker. It requires concentration and a genuine willingness to hear
what is being said.