I received a phone call from a sales person today – he had a sales spiel and he was pushing to sell me advertising space in his magazine.
He wasn’t listening to me; he was only interested in what he had to say. I found it so irritating I completely switched off to what he was saying.
This set me thinking about the whole process of communication and how we can fall into a habit of being so centered on what we want to say, that we aren’t even aware of how we are coming across to the other person.
There is a huge difference between "hearing" and "listening".
For example I can hear what you are saying, without really listening to you. While you are talking, I could at the same time be thinking about an appointment I have that day, what I’m doing in the weekend, something that’s worrying me etc.
There is a saying “Are you alive or just taking up space?” Often when someone is talking to us we are there “taking up space” but we are focused elsewhere.
I realise it takes self-discipline to actively listen, to give the person speaking to us our full attention. Our fast paced lives have programmed us to multi-task and we do that even when someone is talking to us. This sets us up for miscommunication which can lead to conflict and workplace tension.
Active listening is an important skill which we can develop. Just stop and focus on the person, and what they are saying. Try it and see the difference it will make at work, with family and friends.
Here are just few of the likely benefits:
My job has trained me to be fully present, to give my full attention when I have my “work hat” on. But I have to admit that I’m not as good at doing that with family and friends. So I’m going to put listening back on my radar and make it a focus for the months ahead. I’ll let you know how I get on.