A good listener will always have an edge over someone who prefers to speak a lot. In the lines that follow, we will find out what prevents us from listening to others and what can we do to become more receptive.
We want to be listened to by others, we like to talk and see our audience – be it friends, family, or business partners – interested or fascinated by the words we say. But how much do we actually listen to others?
Should I listen more and talk less?
Listening has an incommensurable value, not only for the person receiving attention but also for the person listening. You can learn a lot of things and be very helpful simply by listening to the one next to you.
One person spends about 45% of his off-sleep time listening, a report published on the website of the University of Missouri noted. About 30% of the time, we talk. Even though the percentage of listening is higher than that of speech, many studies have shown that the number of those who do not know how to listen is much higher than the one of good listeners.
- It is an active process.
- It is that selflessness by which you leave yourself aside for a while and focus your attention on another person.
- It is an appeal to empathy, to imagine what the other feels and lives.
- You must refrain from making judgments, opinions, and/or exposing your own values in relation to what you hear.
- It involves putting on pause your need to suggest solutions
Why do we not know how to listen?
Matt McWilliams, a political consultant, marketing manager, and writer, notes on his blog some of the reasons some people are not able to listen. Firstly, we are talking about selfishness, about people who put themselves first and do not give too much importance to those around them. Such people believe that their opinion is extremely important, and perhaps the only one that matters in relation to the others.
Also, the actions taken or the thoughts that crush one person when they are listening to another do nothing but diminish the attention to what the other has to say.
Studies have shown that 10 minutes after an oral presentation, we remember just 50% of what has been presented. This amount of information is halved after two days. Thus, out of the total amount of information we retain only a quarter, which shows that our listening efficiency is down to 25%.
Moreover, thinking faster than we speak contributes to a lower quality of listening activity, says the official website of Missouri University. Thus, people have the mental ability to perceive about 400 words per minute. However, we can only render around 125 words per minute when we speak. This difference shows that when we listen, we use only 25% of our overall capacity, while 75% can concentrate on other things. This requires a higher degree of concentration in order not to be “stolen” by other stimuli from the outside (or inside).
If the information we receive is negative, difficult to accept, we tend to be less receptive to the message that is being sent to us, shows Psychcentral. Thus, there are subconscious disruptions, which prevent us from listening to what we are told and cause us to shut down and defend ourselves from the avalanche of negative information.
How can we become better listeners?
First, we must resist the temptation to monopolize the discussion, Inc. notes. The fact that, for example, you are very knowledgeable of the domain being discussed should not diminish your perceptiveness. We must always remain open to other points of view as well, being patient to listen to the views of those around us, even if they are less fair, or even if they do not follow our ideas. Sometimes we may find new things and new ways of approaching them.
The fact that sometimes we mimic our attention when, in fact, we think about other things, is another habit that makes us bad listeners. No matter how boring the other’s presentation may seem, you should remain focused on the discussion, because you never know when an interesting idea might come out. Moreover, your mimicked attention may be annoying to your interlocutor, and you would certainly not like such treatment either, if anyone were to pretend to listen to you.
Instead, be open and focus on the discussion, recommends Bob Dignen in an article that appeared on the Professional English Online portal of Cambridge University. He advises us to free our minds from other problems and to focus our attention on what is being discussed at the time. Sometimes you will need to make a big effort to do so, but one of the very important things in becoming a very good listener is to remain permanently curious, interested, and involved in what is being presented to you.
You can show that you pay attention to the discussion through your body language. It is a way in which the other can perceive, on a subconscious level, that he receives your attention. By maintaining visual contact with your conversation partner, shaking your head, allowing your gestures to express your reaction, you show you are involved and captivated by the conversation. You can also use some verbal methods that reinforce your listening attentively. For example, sounds and words that signify approval, such as “mhm”, “yes”, “for real?”, “How interesting!” they will show the other that you agree with them, but at the same time, they will show your discussion partner that they caught your interest. That does not mean, however, that you should interrupt the person you are in dialog with, no matter how great the temptation may be.
It is very important to create a proper environment for discussion. Very often, there are stimuli such as stress, a TV set on, or you being involved in other activities, that will prevent you from listening carefully to someone who at that time wants to talk to you. Instead of trying to do more than one thing at once and to fail lamentably, either you pause to focus your attention on the partner of the discussion, or you politely postpone the discussion, scheduling it a little later. at a time when you can concentrate entirely on what the person has to say.
You could see throughout the article that this activity involves a lot of concentration work and a great deal of patience, but also the need to send out the empathy signs to the discussion partner. The acquisition of the ability to listen effectively, brings us many benefits, both personally and professionally. Remember, the one who has the advantage in communication, especially in business, is the one who listens more and speaks less.