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Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Good Listening

By Balwant Sanghera

Often, we tend to underestimate the power of good listening skills. Listening is not the same as hearing.Hearing refers to the sounds that we hear. However, listening requires focus. Listening means paying attention not only to the story, but how it is told, the use of language and voice and how the other person uses his or her body in order to convey the message. Listening is the key to all effective communication. Good listening skills are key to success in all aspects of one’s life-personal relationships, business success, self –esteem and confidence. It has been reported that adults spend an average of 70% of their time engaged in some sort of communication. Of this, 45% is spent on listening compared to 30% speaking, 16% reading and 9% writing.

The fast moving age of technology is adversely affecting this particular area –listening. We tend to rely too much on electronics to communicate. In this process we miss out on all sorts of non-verbal information as well as in making an emotional connection with the person we are communicating with. This, in turn, adds to ones feeling of loneliness. Another area that we often miss out is that we let our own opinions interfere with the message that we are getting from the other person. Rather than asking questions from the person we are trying to communicate with, we tend to offer opinions. In that process, we lose the connection with the speaker. Specialists in this area suggest that we should consider conversation to be a “stand alone” activity. Pay full attention to the other person and stay focused.  This serves dual purpose. The other person will feel that you are interested in listening to him/her and the message he/she is trying to convey to you.  Also, that way you will be able to comprehend the message better.

There is an old saying that we should talk less and listen more. Mark Twain put it verywell:” If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear”. In order to listen properly, we must learn to stop talking. When someone else is talking, it is common courtesy to listen attentively without any interruptions.  At the same time, we should try to relax and focus on the speaker as well as avoid any distractions and distracting thoughts.  Concentrate on the message that the speaker is trying to convey to you. In this context, it is important to make the speaker at ease. This is more so in case of children and youth who may need a bit of prodding and patience in order to convey their message.Empathizing with the speaker and putting yourself in his/her shoes makes it easier for the speaker to convey his/her viewpoint. Let go of preconceived ideas and look at issues from the speaker’s perspective. Be prepared to respect another viewpoint and keep an open mind.

Good listening skills are likely to be of great benefit in building rapport, earning respect and a major source of success in every situation and field.  To conclude, in order to become a good listener, it takes practice. Start from a place of open mindedness and acceptance. Be attentive and relax your gaze. Be patient and listen to both words and the silence in between.  If necessary, ask open ended questions in order to get a grip on what the other person is trying to say.  Finally, be an active listener and make the other person feel valued and respected whether you agree or disagree with him/her.

Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Acivist.

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