In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey tells of a father who came to him saying, “I can’t understand my kid. He just won’t listen to me.” Covey patiently tried to get the dad to see the inconsistency of his statement. You don’t understand people by getting them to listen to you. You understand them when you listen to what they’re saying.
Is anyone listening?
It’s true that our high-tech, fast-paced society seems to provide less time to listen to one another. Everyone is in a hurry, no one has time, but the need for communication and connection is more important than ever. Relationships at work and at home cannot thrive or survive without mutual communication. It’s imperative that we stop and listen up!
Have you ever jumped to understand a person’s disagreeing view? That’s not the first move of most people in conversation. People usually jump to judge, to argue, to reject, or to debate, but to understand? That’s a minority of people.
But we can change that.
When we listen to another person, we can refuse to be distracted by our own opinions and biases that prompt us to interrupt and disagree. We can accept that listening to a differing view is not going to cause the veins in our foreheads to explode. It’s only fair that if we want our point to be understood, we need to practice understanding the point of others. If a person speaks about a different view about something, we can ask why he or she believes that different view. We can ask, “Why do you believe that?” We can say, “Tell me how you came to that conclusion (or opinion, or position).”
We could listen to what people say, and not to what we want to hear. We could listen to their choice of words, not what we want them to say. We Could listen to their values, their complaints, their priorities, their outlook, and how they speak about other people because that will reveal to us who that person is. So pay attention, put down any distractions, look at the person speaking, and listen.
To avoid the impulse to finish the sentences of a person who speaks slower is often a tussle. This is a test of patience. And another impulse to avoid is planning what to say next when we should be listening. Also don’t interrupt the person talking, or take calls, or look at your phone (or TV), or wave to someone you know, or stare at the floor or out the window, all of which convey that the person talking is a bother to you, and not important.
Look at the person talking, without distraction. Practice listening with the intent to understand. This earns the respect of others. And this will provide information about the person speaking.
A good listener is a respected trait.
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