I will be the first to admit I can leave a conversation and 10 minutes later not even remember what was said. We blame this on forgetfulness, a busy life, too many messages on social media, or a boring conversation. But that’s just it – we blame circumstances instead of practicing listening to someone. We all want to be listened to, but nobody wants to listen. I’m convinced some people don’t even know how.
Listening is not a passive human function, but something we must actively work for. To listen is to take an interest, care about, acknowledge, and process what is being communicated. That means totally and completely. Yes, you may hear people all day, but when was the last time you actually listened to them?
Why does it matter?
Listening is at the very root of communication. It affects everything we do and who we are as a person! When we think about communication we often consider the words we used or how we said something, but how often do we think about listening as a key factor in our conversations. If we want to communicate well with those around us, we must first learn to listen intently. Only then will we see true compassion, understanding, and change.
Active listening has numerous benefits. Socially, we can connect to people better if we slow down and listen. We can also care for others better this way. Actively listening takes deliberate effort to set aside our own needs and thoughts to consider those of another individual, even if you don’t see eye to eye. That is how we can care for someone best, and in return be cared for!
We also better ourselves by listening. We expand and refine our ideas, thoughts, opinions, values, and perspectives when we expose ourselves to others mindsets. The only way to open our minds is to open our ears and listen!
Hearing vs. Listening?
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”Stephen C. Covey
This quote simplifies the difference between hearing and listening. Most people would consider these the same, but in conversation, they generate much different outcomes. Often, when we communicate, we are waiting for a moment to interject. If we are really honest with ourselves, how often do we have a response in our heads before the other person is even finished speaking? Probably more often than we like to admit.
The problem with this is that we are not concentrating on the other person’s words, we are concentrating on formulating our response. We don’t ask questions or get curious. We hear but our intentions are not to understand, they are to reply.
Restore the Lost Art of Listening
Just because something is lost doesn’t mean it can’t be found and restored! Listening takes practice and intentionality, but it is worth it. Today more than ever, our society as a whole struggles to listen, either because we are too focused on ourselves or because we are just too distracted. The good news is we CAN become better listeners.
I am convinced, listening is one of the most powerful tools we possess. We have so much opportunity to care for, influence, change, and empower just by simply listening. So don’t waste the opportunity you have every single day to impact the world around you.
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