The Art of Listening

Here is a great article by Orrin Woodward on the Art of Listening.  Often, its helpful to be reminded of what we already know and should be doing. Applying some of these basic principles can make all the difference in both our personal and professional lives. Have a great day.

Ben

If I were to pick the most important art in dealing with people it would be the art of listening. Nothing increased my ability to lead people as much as learning how to listen. No matter how powerful a speaker you develop into, it is not as effective as powerful listening.

I am hesitant to share this topic because I am aware of how much I need to improve in this area still! With that said, I can still remember the day I focused on listening to others before drawing wrong conclusions and solving the wrong problems. What a break thru it was to realize that not everyone wanted the problem solved as much as they wanted someone to listen!

If I were to pick one area for all Team Leaders to improve in, I would pick listening over all others besides character. You cannot connect with others until you have listened long enough for them to feel understood by you. When a person feels you understand; you can work together to solve any issues that need to be addressed, in a spirit of teamwork.

Without listening to others, your solutions come across as domineering and not heartfelt. Remember, people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care! Do you care for your community? If you do, then close your mouth and actively listen to them. You have two ears and one mouth – please use in that proportion. Ask questions and listen – save the seminars for when you are asked to speak!

God Bless, Orrin Woodward

We all take talking for granted. Though you may occasionally feel your hands grow cold before giving a speech, you often talk without recognizing the simultaneous changes that occur in your body.

Research shows that while we speak with our words, we also speak with every fiber of our being. This ‘language of the heart’ is integral to the health and emotional life of all of us.

Blood pressure and heart rate elevates every time you speak, even when discussing the most neutral topic. Even those who speak through signing had the same results.

For people who are hypertensive, the rise caused by talking was much greater than for healthy people, and often well into the danger zone. How do hypertensive people handle this? After all, most do not drop dead during social encounters. Other studies show that they subconsciously maintain distance in their relationships and minimize what can be for them ‘lethal dialogues’.

What makes the cardiovascular system of hypertensive’s so vulnerable to verbal communication? Though the hypertensive’s studied were outwardly calm, many tended to talk intensely and breathlessly, interrupting and speaking over other people. This kind of speech is typical of Type – A behavior, an impulsive, hard driving life style linked to increased risk of heart disease.

Most normal talk is a seesaw. The rising of blood pressure when one talks is balanced by a rapid lowering of pressure when one listens. But the rhythm is out of sync in hypertensive’s. They frequently fail to listen; they are on guard, defensive. So their pressure stays up.

Learning to calmly listen to another person helps lower blood pressure. By learning to listen more, by breathing regularly while talking, and paying attention to what the other person is saying, you can learn to lower your blood pressure.

Since so few people genuinely attend to others, those who will learn to draw out the other person can be guaranteed all the friendships they can handle and can be assured of deepening the relationships they presently own.

The road to the heart is the ear. – Voltaire

Why are so many of us poor listeners? Much of our listening education was in the form of be quiet, listen and pay attention. Most of the people in our society are passive listeners, geared to react on trigger words, and shut out tedium.

Time spend learning in school: 

40% learning how to read

35% learning how to write

25% learning how to talk

1% learning how to listen or communicate

We can learn to be good listeners with some work and practice. The rewards can be great.

1. Know when you are not listening. 

Check yourself by asking silently: Can I repeat, rephrase or clarify what has just been said?” If you can’t, the sound may be on but the replay is broken.

2. Know why you are not listening.

As you define your excuses for not listening you will systematically eradicate the ‘watching someone talk’ syndrome. Check the following common reasons for not listening and begin to take silent control of the communication.

* We hear only what we want to hear.

* We consider the topic or information unimportant.

* We jump to conclusions

* Too many other problems on our minds.

* Radical departure from our own thinking.

* Waiting for our turn to talk.

3. Avoid judgments.

Nearly all the reasons for not listening focus on our own ego and our inability to grant equal attention to another person. As soon as the person speaking is elevated to a pinnacle of importance, the active listening process begins and we weigh each thought mightily as if our lives depended on a total recitation of the prior narrative. As you fine tune your listening skills avoid listening only when you deem the speaker worthy of hearing.

4. Match your thought process to the speaker’s words.

We think and hear about 1.000 words per minute. The average speaking speed is 125 words per minute. What then do we do with the time lapse? Human nature combats the problem with anything from boredom to rudeness. Good listeners use the time to clarify, validate and reiterate the conversation topic in their mind. Listen for ideas and emotions rather than facts. Fact listening is defensive. Emotion listening is offensive. Idea listening is progressive.

5. Know thyself.

Do words like difficult, stupid, revolutionary, or assignments shut off your listening process? Does a reference to love, food or fun cause your ears to perk and your antenna to turn in? Understand where your hot and cold buttons are and adjust your listening process to circumvent any sudden shut down because of an emotion laden word or phrase. (This seems to me to be what happens with communication with husbands and wives. We allow too many words to become hot or cold buttons and therefore we render ourselves unable to really communicate)

6. Conversation always moves from agreement to disagreement and then stops. 

Listeners who are involved in two way conversation and are prepared to repeat and clarify information will immediately direct the conversation back to agreement and then reach an understanding.

7. Keep alert.

Listening shuts down when both apathy and anxiety set in. Strive for enthusiasm in listening. Communicate with you body; lean forward, smile, nod, become involved by maintaining direct eye contact. If you are on the telephone; stand up, walk. The more attentive and alert, the better you listen. Listening is an acquired skill that is critically important to success in life. Adults spend about 75% of each day in verbal communication. 45% of this time is spent listening. Persons in a business or social situation who do not have good listening skills are ineffective. Mistakes due to poor listening skills cost organizations thousands of dollars each year.

Listening to another is the highest form of building personal self esteem. For only when we feel good about ourselves and the world around us do we go beyond ‘waiting for our turn to talk’ or ‘watching someone else talk’ to ‘passionate’ listening that elevates us to pinnacles of thought and action separates us from animals making noise.

The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention. – Richard Moss

A smile is the light in your face that lets others know your heart is at home.

Listening attentively to another is to pay the highest compliment to them.

You do not have to be witty to be a good conversationalist you simply have to know how to listen. The secret of being interesting is to be interested in the other person. Ask questions the other person will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves. But don’t be the silent partner in the conversation.

Silence can be described as negative feedback. Like a failed monitoring system on a moon rocket, it tells you something is wrong, but it doesn’t go very far toward telling you what. “Respond to their questions and especially their comments that can open the emotional connection between you.

Conversation with your friends will indeed get sparse if you restrict yourselves to facts, but when you talk about your feelings there will always be plenty to discuss. It’s amazing the way a man listens to you. When you talk to him he looks you squarely in the eye.

He seems to shut out all other interests and hang on every word you utter. It is flattering to have someone give you that much of his attention. The eye lock is a powerful magnet for making contact with people. Look people squarely in the eye it is one of the surest indicators that you are interested in the other person.

Be careful not to give advice too quickly. Often people ask for advice when what they really want is for someone to listen to them. By listening to them you help them get the problem outside of themselves and on the table between you, the issues become clear and they are able to arrive at their own decision.

When people confide in you they are often afraid they have said too much. They will be watching you to see if you raise your brows or appear to have lost confidence in them. It is important to alley those fears by not over reacting to what has been said. To put them at ease compliment them on being able to share with you. By all means don’t reveal anyone’s private matters. When you tell something told to you in confidence you identify yourself as an untrustworthy confidant. So the way to be a confidant is to let no one know that you are a confidant to others.

That which is in the well of the heart is bound to come up in the bucket of speech.

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird

Seek first to understand and then to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand: they listen with the intent to reply. They’re filtering everything through their own paradigm, reading their autobiography into other people’s lives. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Covey

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