Everyone wants to be heard – so why is it so difficult for us to listen? Perhaps it goes back to our early education where most of the focus is on reading and writing, a little focus on speaking, and virtually no focus on effective listening skills – taking notes doesn’t get it.
One thing that gets in our way is the urge to judge, evaluate, and approve (or disapprove) another person’s statement. In other words, your first reaction is to evaluate it from your point of view.
Although making evaluations happens most of the time, this reaction is heightened in situations where feelings and emotions are deeply involved. The stronger the feelings, the less likely there will be mutual understanding in the communication – just two ideas missing each other in space.
We can achieve real communication when we listen with understanding. This means seeing the expressed idea and attitude from the other person’s point of view. Sounds easy but it’s very hard to do. Here’s one way to try it out: The next time you’re in an argument with your spouse or friend, stop the discussion and suggest this rule: “Before each person speaks up, he or she must first restate the ideas and feelings of the previous speaker accurately and to that speaker’s satisfaction.”
You’ll find this to be an incredibly difficult thing to do. And even when you have been able to do it, your comments will have to be drastically revised. But, and this is the interesting part, you’ll also find that the emotion is dissipating – the differences are reduced, and those that remain are rational and understandable.
How well do you listen?