Monday, March 13, 2006

Learn to Listen

Success in life depends a lot more on listening than talking. Learn to listen and be happy and succeed.

I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant - Anonymous

We are often pounded by visuals, sounds, smells and touches of hundreds of things around us that we seldom succeed in listening and perceiving things correctly. To hear is to pick up the sounds. To listen is to give attention to what is being heard.

To listen well you must develop an inner silence. Forget the noise inside you. Focus on the speaker - posture, body language, eye contact, tone of voice, arm movements, head tilts and, at the same time, attend to your own reactions as you perceive the message. It requires a lot of self-discipline, but will surely result in a marked improvement in personal relationships and performance at work.

A good listener can take in and understand 300-700 words per minute, while a good speaker can only utter 125-150 words per minute. The listener must adjust to the speaker's speed or it'll create an emotional barrier between the two.

Most of us love talking. It feels good to talk to someone who'll listen. Let's remember, others feel the same way too. Listening means caring for the opinions, desires, problems, hopes and fears of another. Emphatic listening is hearing and perceiving the world as someone else experiences, without passing judgements. It makes others feel safe and secure in your company.

One must listen with humility. Forget your own experiences. Stop evaluating as something is being said. Don't assume things. Don't let your predetermined image of the person distort what you are listening. As they say, to see a tree you must become the tree, meaning you should not see the tree through the image of a tree already formed in your mind. Each experience is fresh and has to be viewed new every time.

Don't interrupt the speaker's flow of thought. Ask a question to confirm that you were indeed listening. Nod your head to encourage the speaker. If you've really missed something, ask him to repeat. Occasional interruptions help to keep in touch with the speaker.

Listen for gaps between what you say and what you do. This helps to bridge the inadequacies in your personality. It helps you to keep up with your image. It gives you the feedback so vital to plugging the gaps in your character.

When the water in the pond is still, you can see the pebbles at the bottom. Drop a stone, and the muddy water prevents clear visibility. So be calm. You can listen to what exactly the speaker says. Pay attention. Stay still. You'll hear what you have to hear.