EVERYONE has experienced occasions when they wished they had listened more closely to what was being said. Usually, good listening requires self-discipline, and sometimes it requires self-examination.
If you sometimes have problems listening to what others say, some of these factors may be behind the difficulty:
You may conclude — either before or during the speaker’s remarks — that the speaker has nothing significant to say. The reasons for such prejudice may include the speaker’s appearance, age, actions, voice, race, religion and nationality.
MOst people carry petty biases. It is easy to say that one should get rid of them, but prejudices are emotional, not rational, and they can be insidious. It is best to overcome your prejudices, but while you are doing so, you must learn to override them when your best interests are involved. You do this by taking charge of your thoughts and encouraging yourself to seek out the value in what is being said.
When you are lost and asking for directions, you do not let your attention stray just because the person giving directions is wearing overalls instead of a business suit. You listen for the information you need to get to your destination.
When you are inclined to tune out a speaker because of some prejudice, remind yourself of the purpose of the conversation. Keep that purpose in mind, and listen for the words that bear on the purpose.
Jumping to conclusions
You may decide that what the speaker is saying is too difficult, too trite, too boring, or otherwise unsuited to your needs. Therefore, you feign attentiveness while your mind is elsewhere.
When you encounter this situation, bring your mind back to the here and now. Accept the challenge of drawing from the speaker some ideas and information that will be valuable to you.
If the message is too trite or too boring, use questions to probe for more interesting and stimulating material. If the information is too difficult, ask the speaker to simplify. Just say: "You’re a pro at this, and I’m not. Give it to me in layman’s terms." Then do not be afraid to ask questions for clarification. The speaker will be flattered by your interest and will be eager to help you understand.
You may assume that you already know what the speaker is going to say, so your attention drifts elsewhere. As a result, you miss any new information the speaker may give. When you find yourslef thinking this way, make it a game to look for something new to take away from the conversation.
If you are like most people, you speak about 125 words per minute, but you can think at a rate of more than 400 words per minute. As a result, you may use the "spare time" to think of what you are going to say next.
In the process, you may miss out on much of what the speaker is saying. The remedy is to use the "spare time" to evaluate and interpret what the speaker is saying. You can frame your own response when it is your turn to speak.
You may sometimes hear only what you want to. Once again, the solution is to evaluate and interpret. Look for information and ideas that challenge your own ideas. Compare them with what you konw and what you feel.
Think about how you might deal with this information or these ideas. Should you reconsider your own position? Should you devise new strategies in the light of information?
If you insist on monopolising the conversation, you are not going to hear very much. Be conscious of that amount of time you spend talking, and be alert for signs that your listener has something to say. Be willing to yield the floor at reasonable intervals.
Lack of empathy
Good listeners try to see things from the speaker’s perspective. If you listen strictly from your own perspective, you may miss out on the relevance of what is being said. The speaker’s vantage point is an important part of the message.
When you consciously make it a point to listen attentively to what someone is trying to tell you, you may find that it is more rewarding than you imagined.
~ By Nido Qubein, an international speaker and consultant.