Last week, I raised the point of the Lost Art of Listening and how critical listening is in all areas of our lives. It is particularly important during this period of “lockdown” when we are spending more time with our family members and our need to interact effectively is increased to maintain harmonious relationships.

In order to achieve something good, you have to listen, as this creates opportunities to learn and interact. Our lives up to now have been so busy that moments of real listening have become increasingly rare.

In fact, instead of being able to listen better to someone, we have learned to shut out everyone who doesn’t agree with us or who takes time to get their message across. We don’t listen to the information behind the words and therefore don’t connect. Not listening properly means that we lose the joy of interaction and the wisdom we might have gained if we had actually listened that little bit longer and not spent our time planning our response.

Lonely people are not lonely because of a lack of people around them but rather people get lonely from a lack of other people listening. They don’t have anyone to share their thoughts and feelings with and just as importantly, they don’t have anyone who shares their thoughts and feelings with them. Listening is a two-way street – it’s the way we stay connected.

Listening well is hard – we can’t be good listeners all the time – but we can learn to be better listeners because this skill deteriorates if we don’t use it regularly.

We can begin by thinking about how we listen.

What habits have we got into that make us bad listeners? (this is easier to described than what makes us a good listener – but that’s a topic for another day)

  • Interrupting
  • Latching on to one word and plan our response without listening to the intent of the interaction
  • Looking at our phone, our watch, around the room or away from the speaker
  • Fidgeting and being physically restless
  • Not actually responding to what has been said but giving a vague “turn filler” such as yeah, uh huh, whatever, ok.

If you are doing these things, STOP. Make it your challenge to identify which of these you are guilty of and use the week ahead to try and catch yourself before you do them.

But this alone will not make you a better listener, it just makes it less obvious that you are being a bad listener.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
― Stephen R. Covey