We spend so much time communicating! Yet we are so poor at doing it. We can understand language before we are even able to verbalize language.
So why is it that so many people fail to listen? You know what I am talking about? In every situation from friendships to sales, there seems to be a communication barrier that often centers around poor listening skills by one or more parties.
We spend so much time teaching people how to speak, that we rarely spend time teaching them how to listen. Yet it is an integral part of communication. One of my favorite sayings is that: “Real communication begins when the other person thinks you said what you thought you said.”
It could also read: Real communication begins when you the other person thinks they said what you thought they said. There is a certain duality to these statements as responsibility falls on both, to be clear and truly pay attention. For the purposes of this blog, we will focus on: paying attention.
There are many reasons why listening skills are difficult for many people. We will look at 3 common reasons and their solutions. Going through these you may find one that applies to you or someone you know. Feel free to comment below on your thoughts on any of these or others you have noticed yourself.
• The more time goes by each generation is more and more distracted.
• “I know the answer”
Listed here are several reasons why people get distracted and do not listen. Underlining reasons could also include personality types, generational gaps ect.. However, the solution for most of these can be quite simple.
Put away your gadgets, especially your phone and LISTEN. Listen to every single word the person is saying to you, make sure you understand each phrase being said. Whenever possible, especially for important, discussions pick a quiet spot with little to no outside stimuli. Maintain eye contact and do NOT interrupt until the person has finished speaking. Note on the last point, avoid coming up with a solution, holding it in play until the person has finished speaking. If you do so, you could be right back to square one, since you are not listening anymore but thinking about what you want to say next. Which leads to the next reason.
2. I Know the Answer.
This one is one of my favorites cause so many of us do it! There are so many categories for this:
• I know what you are going they are going to say.
• I know how to resolve the problem.
• I am always right!
There are more, however like in the examples given, they all start with “I”. When someone is talking, it should always be about THAT person, not about you. Let me illustrate. I walked into a suit store to buy a suit. I hardly had time to say hi, when the clerk already had a suit in mind. When confronted, and forced to listen to what I wanted, they still attempted to sell me the same suit they had in mind to begin with, which did not match anything I had asked for. Sound familiar?
It is often possible that you may ACTUALLY have the correct answer, response or solution. However, think of how frustrating it feels when someone does this to you and imagine how the person you are “listening” to feels. Pay attention to key elements that may not in your predefined scenario. As difficult as it may be to believe, you do NOT know all the facts so listen to get as many details as possible. Resist the urge to interrupt no matter how rushed or sure you are of your response. This in turn leads to point number 3.
How often have you experienced this one? This is a reality in our world today that many cannot escape. It does not matter whether it is for leisure or work, time is more and more precious as there are so many things today vying for the limited luxury that is our time. Lack of time will cause us to fall into the above-mentioned scenarios. It will show with our patience level, our level of attention and the responses we give. Even our countenance will denounce ourselves as not prepared to listen because we are already moving on to the next topic. How do we fix this? STOP! Take a moment and think on the reason you are there with this person. If you have decided to allocate a specific time for a conversation you deem important, then give that conversation the time allotted before you allow your mind to move on to other topics. More often then not you will save you time in the long run.
In conclusion, there are many reasons why we fail to listen properly. However, those who get ahead, usually have great listening skills. In a business world where recurring sales and customer service are in demand, the art of listening NOT talking is what will get you ahead. We have all heard the saying: You have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk. Note we also only have one mind, therefore this should apply to thinking as well. There are so many barriers to communication out there, it is important to minimize them as much as possible if we are to succeed as Managers, Employees, Salesmen, Co-Workers, Friends, ect…