April 24, 2009

Listening 101

Sometimes the simplest things are the most difficult. Like active listening. We often think of ourselves as good listeners; but are we really? Or, are we distracted, or disengaged, or just waiting for our turn to speak.

Listening is more than hearing. Consider this: have you ever had the experience of talking to your teenager (or dare I say, spouse) who does not appear to be listening ? You comment "You haven't heard a word I said" only to get the response, "Yes I did you said blah blah blah etc. etc.". Of course, he or she just repeated your words verbatim. Yet, you did not FEEL the person was listening.

Listening is not just about content, but it is about process. It is about making an emotional connection, showing the speaker you are engaged, genuinely interested and involved. Yet in today's world, especially the business setting, we find it difficult to listen as closely as we should. There are many distractions, too many priorities to attend to, and a pace that is hard to keep up with. When we try to listen, we are bombarded by emails, IMs, telephone calls, tweets and all sorts of other stimuli that take our attention away from the human activity we call listening.

Maybe its time we all took a course in Listening 101. It is likely to improve our work productivity and may just make our spouses a little happier too.