The art of listening.

Author:Holmes, Tyrone A.
Position:Professional Development
 
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Listening is one of the most prominent activities in our daily lives. In fact, with the exception of breathing, there is nothing we do more frequently than listen. Unfortunately, most of us don't listen as well as we could. Research indicates that the average person forgets 50 percent of what they hear within seconds of a conversation. Within two days, we lose 75 percent and a week after a conversation, we have lost over 90 percent of what was discussed. This occurs because of the four barriers to effective listening that we encounter on a regular basis:

  1. A natural tendency to want to speak first and focus on our own agenda. This gets in the way of our ability to really hear and understand the other person.

  2. Negative perceptions regarding the speaker and/or topic. If you lack enthusiasm for either your communication partner or the subject matter, your ability to listen can be severely limited.

  3. Our ability to think much faster than someone can speak. Each of us has the ability to process words four to five times faster than a person can speak them. This can lead to impatience on the part of the listener if their communication partner is not making his or her points quickly enough.

  4. Emotional, external and internal noise. Emotional noise consists of words that arouse strong emotions in us and thereby limit our communication effectiveness. External noise involves distractions that take place around us and take our attention away from the speaker. Internal noise consists of distractions taking place within us, such as having our mind on something else or being in a rush, which take our attention away from the speaker.

    The good news is that listening is not as difficult as we sometimes make it out to be. The most important thing to keep in mind is that there are two aspects of effective listening. The first, and most obvious, is that listening involves understanding the message being sent by your communication partner in the way that they intend. The second, and frequently neglected aspect is that effective listening involves the articulation of your understanding to your communication partner. In other words, you demonstrate to that person that you clearly understand his or her message. There are several things that you can do to improve your listening in both areas:

  5. Make sure the conversation takes place at a time and place where you feel comfortable talking. If you are in a rush...

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