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(It is said that when we talk, we are only repeating what we already know, but when we listen, we may learn something new. Why, then, is listening such a dying art? Why are we so intent on telling the world what we have to say, that in the process, we drown the rest of the voices around us and fail to listen, not even to our heart, sometimes?)

Sharing a few thoughts that came to mind, after being inspired by Corinne’s post #Listening is an act of Love

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Listening is an art. When people are speaking, they require our undivided attention. We focus on them; we listen very carefully. We listen to the spoken words and the unspoken messages. This means looking directly at the person, eyes connected; we forget we have a watch, just focusing for that moment on that person. It’s called respect, it’s called appreciation – and it’s called leadership.

These are the words of Frances Hesselbein, former CEO of The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute, in her book My Life in Leadership, which is the best way one can describe the act of listening.

It does not come as a surprise, when we realise, that 80 percent of our success in learning from other people, is based on how well we listen. In fact, our success or failure is determined even before we do anything. What escapes most people is that they think listening is passive. They think they are supposed to just sit there and “hear someone out.” Reading Frances’ description a little carefully will show there is nothing passive about it. It is active and powerful. Good listeners know this. They regard listening as a highly active process.

It may seem like it is the easiest thing to do, but listening actively and with respect may not always be easy to apply, especially when we are told that many of our interpersonal problems at home or in the workplace, stem from not listening and not thinking before we speak. It seems at times that with too many stressors working on our lives, we have very little patience to listen, when arguments erupt. Often, the first thing we do is to lash out, and within seconds, we have a crisis of miscommunication on our hands that could have been avoided.

It is quite irrelevant whether the discussion is centred around the latest events happening around the world, or an impending economic crisis looming large over our heads, or even the weather. It is easy to see how quickly we can slip into small behavioral patterns that create friction at home or even in the workplace. Really, it’s up to us.

Not everyone has the ability to listen, but every individual has the potential to become good listeners. You may ask, how. Well, when we talk of effective communication, we often infer it has everything to do with how we speak, forgetting the fact that we also need to listen effectively in equal measure, if communication has to be effective, since every communication is essentially a two-way process. So, the question is, how can we become good listeners?

Here are a few simple techniques to follow, in order to listen effectively:

  • Give your full attention to the speaker and do not interrupt.
  • Do not finish the other person’s sentences.
  • Refrain from the temptation of saying -“I knew that.”
  • You need not agree with the other person.
  • Avoid getting distracted or letting your eyes or attention wander elsewhere while the other person is talking.
  • It is always a good practice to maintain the dialogue by asking intelligent questions that show you’re paying attention, and at the same time, moving the conversation forward.

There is a simple truth behind why we ought to listen twice as much as we talk – God has given us two ears but only one mouth (I am reminded of my primary school days, when the class teacher used to admonish us because we would all speak at the same time, turning the classroom into a fish market!)

To listen, we must try to learn tranquility. Only then can we be ready to quieten our mind. It is not enough just to have the will to listen to people. One must really listen. Only then does the magic begin.

I would love to hear from you if you have any interesting experience to share about a time when you listened to someone with undivided attention or when someone gave you theirs?

                This is linked to the #Monday Musings post on Write Tribe.

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