It occurs to me that one of the main reasons that I focus on the area of listening is because I see so much suffering and needless misunderstanding in our world and in day-to-day life. How often have you heard it said, or have said to yourself: “Is anyone listening?” On the subway, in political conversations, in the media, in schools, at work, in families — everyone is talking, but who is listening?
We are taught how to speak from the moment we are born. We are educated to speak well and are rewarded for it. But, no one gives us any instructions about listening – certainly not in elementary school or High School. In most cases, we are told to listen but not truly taught how to listen. We say and hear the following:
- Listen to me.
- Look at me when I am talking to you.
- You are not listening to me.
- You can’t talk and listen at the same time.
Because of this, we have grown into patterns of communicating which are fundamentally based on talking. Typically, listening is backgrounded in conversation and is mainly used to gather clues for what to say next. The emphasis in our mental focus is in forming talk. The result is: we are constantly talking to each other yet rarely listening. And, what listening we do practice is, effectively, a servant of our talking.
Yet, listening is THE essential element of communication. It is more important than any other element of communication in creating understanding. Listening is, especially, an essential part of successful leadership. Without effective listening, leadership loses effect.