Listening with Both Ears
Joe Dunne, Publisher
It’s easy to forget that listening is a “pay attention” decision, and the easiest way to ride right past that decision is when talking is involved. Every conversation has different components that dictate the outcome of how we handle communication and listening in general. But here is a bit of observation and personal direction.
When we engage in conversation, we set our priorities on what we define as important to us.
We interrupt quite a bit, anxious to get to our turn. Why? Because we’re listening to ourselves rather than listening to what is being said. Or we’re influenced by who we are in conversation with and just can’t help ourselves. We take over. We interrupt—sometimes on topic and sometimes to redirect.
About interrupting: I do not remember being taught that interrupting is a normal feature in good communication (though my teenage son tells me that interruption is the way normal people communicate, and that I must be weird to think it’s not okay). We interrupt others to tell our thoughts, our story or our experience, even though we know it’s very hard to hear others when we’re listening to ourselves. There must be a reason for “two ears, one mouth,” yet the ego asks, “why should I listen when talking is so much more rewarding, especially to me?”
Creating the discipline to be aware, to listen, to be respectful is all on me. When listening to myself, I should be listening for my tone with others, my clarity with others, instead of just listening to my own urge to interject what I want into the conversation.
Being a good listener is hard; being a great listener is dynamic. I think we take it for granted that listening and communication in general is complex. The components of listening are mind boggling. Active listening, body language, eye contact, facial expressions, subject matter, situational listening and understanding the message you are trying to convey, along with setting up the environment to be heard, eliminating noise and setting the tone of the communication are all involved. So yes, it is complex.
Despite its complexity, the first step to improvement is to make the decision. So, starting today, my intention is to become a better listener. To be present in every conversation, to be attentive, to draw on my knowledge from the courses, books, audio tapes and TED talks I have taken and listened to, as well as my life experience and sales background and apply them to become a better listener. I know I can improve with the simple, little act of good intention and paying attention.
Becoming a great listener is rewarding to everyone involved. Let’s all pay attention to what is being said.
In peace, love and laughter,