Listening: The First Step in Effective Communication

“For today’s lecture we will discuss the mathematical modeling of populations in Equations….” Are you listening?  If you’re like many students you’ve probably already zoned out. This lecture will get you nowhere. Why? You simply won’t listen.  There’s something “more important” on your mind or on your phone… or are you still trying to finish that homework for your next class.

Too many people see communication as a one-way relay of information from themselves to those around them.  They think: “Everyone must understand ‘me’ and what ‘I’ say”. Truthfully most people aren’t listening.  It’s one of the great paradoxes of man. All want to be heard but not many want to listen. They are busy thinking about what they themselves will say or do.

Remember, people are more apt to listen to you if you listen to them.  And, if you listen to them you can better tailor what you say to influence them.

Besides self-centeredness, there are many things that stop or hinder our listening. These are called filters. Filters range from simple distractions to physical exhaustion.  Whatever keeps you from listening—eliminate it.  It may be something you need to get done or simple boredom.  It isn’t worth it.  Let go and listen to what’s being said. True listening is not passive. Good listeners seek and work to understand.  You can become a more effective listener by following 4 simple steps: 

Check your Filter
Everybody has a different perspective at different times in their daily life. Filters change but they all deter from effective listening; they include a number of distractions including drowsiness, hunger, mental and emotional state, worry, etc.

Focus on what is being said and who is saying it.  Try seeing it from their perspective.

Give both verbal and nonverbal evidence that you are listening.  This will help your understand as well as help the other person feel comfortable.

Ask Questions and paraphrase what others say to check for understanding.  

In our quest to learn, accomplish and build we must first listen.  How can we acquire knowledge or develop marketable skills if we won’t listen to what people say and do?

“Are you listening?”

Communication Quotes:
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” 
Ernest Hemingway

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change 

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