What is the purpose of listening?
Well, listening serves a number of purposes; comprehension, appreciation, showing support and critical listening. This week, I attended Professional Speaking Association’s President Steve Bustin’s newly formed Speech Club which provided a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate all four types of listening within one hour!
I listened for comprehension to learn something new as Steve walked us through Barak Obama’s 2008 Victory Speech and pointed out the various speech techniques being exhibited. I listened for appreciation because I enjoy the topic of public speaking. I listened to other people’s feedback and appreciated and empathised with their insights and thoughts. From a critical listening perspective, I was there to analyse and evaluate what was being said in the speech. Actively listening required me to hear, evaluate and interpret the content of the speech.
“It is not the hearing that improves life, but the listening.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Listening is not the same as hearing. Listening requires effort. It requires you to give your full attention to the speaker, to listen without judgement, to be patient, to reflect what is being said, to clarify and to summarise.
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Stephen R. Covey
People tend to be preparing what to say next so they are not listening or even hearing what is actually being said. Covey says this is because, “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”
What is it about listening that people really value?
Through active listening, you earn the trust of the speaker and you understand and empathise with what they are saying. Listening is a way of connecting with others and it is in this connectedness that you find fulfilment and happiness. It is connection, relationships and belonging that people value more than anything else. It’s the space that is created where someone feels truly heard.
In my profession as a podcast host and life purpose coach, listening is essential. I listen attentively in silence without interrupting, totally focused on what the person in front of me is saying. I pause before responding to ensure that the speaker has finished as those extra two or three seconds of silence make all the difference. This is when the speaker takes the conversation to another level because they have been given the space to explore further.
They often hadn’t finished talking. They were either pausing for effect to show me that what they had just said was important, they are recollecting thoughts of what to continue with or they just need a moment or two to regather their thoughts before continuing. Not making assumptions, I often clarify with questions or parrot back what has been said to check.
“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” Peter Drucker
Effective listening is understanding not only what has been said but what is unsaid or partially said. It is recognising and observing body language, inconsistencies between the verbal and non-verbal communication. Cues can be found in the words, in the tone and volume of the voice, in the gestures, facial expressions and in the eye movements. You listen with your eyes too.
As Jeremy Nicholas said in his episode 156 Talking Funny this week, “if they’re laughing, they’re listening. It’s all about making people lean in to listen more, rather than just sit back and think how much longer is this person going on for.”
The art of listening is the key to communication and not just with others but with yourself. In episode 147 with Dan Milne and Jane Nash, the importance of being able to listen to yourself arose. How much time do you spend listening to you? When you listen to yourself, you listen to what your life has been telling you.
If you are looking to make a difference in whatever form that may take, either as a leader, a parent, a family member, a partner or as a friend then listening is the way to achieve this. The focus is so often on speaking that time is not spent truly listening to what or who really matters in your life.
If time is your most precious resource then listening to someone is the most valuable gift that you can give.
Focus on listening!
Listening is simple but it’s not easy. Listen. That’s it.
Don’t respond, opine, advise, just listen.
RECOMMENDATIONS If you are interested in joining Steve Bustin’s Speech Club – join here
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