Most of us, if we are being honest, would admit that we could be better listeners. I know that despite trying to be a good listener, I find myself zoning out, and occasionally I’m also guilty of ‘waiting until it’s my turn to tell my story’. Listening is such an underestimated skill. Society generally applauds the loud ones, the ones that can tell their stories beautifully (which in itself is a huge skill), but equally the skill to listen properly, should be valued just as highly. This article Why It’s Important To Listen To Other People, suggests that when we’re younger we are very good at listening to the world around us, as our curiosity leads us to asking lots of questions. However, as we get older, we become more interested in giving the world our own opinions. The article suggests that if we are continually talking, rather than listening, we are restricting the amount of information and knowledge we acquire. It’s harder to learn if you aren’t tuned in to listening. This buzzfeed video is a great example of blanking out the world around you because you’re not listening. It’s funny, and we all know we do it. But I think it reflects perfectly how we are restricting our ability to engage with the world.
In this regard, listening is integral to having empathy. Equally, empathy is integral to listening well. What do I mean? Well listening definitely isn’t just hearing and showing that you’re responding. The true ability to listen is about understanding where the other person is coming from. This humorous but poignant video It’s Not About The Nail shows why understanding and empathy are so important to listen effectively. Sometimes it is actually quite easy to blur the lines between empathy, sympathy, and trying to solve problems, but Brene Brown on Empathy, shows the difference excellently.
On the subject of physically listening, Julian Treasure has a great TED talk where he explains how we can train ourselves to listen more effectively. He also has a lovely voice, so even if you’re not interested, it’s worth a listen. However, going deeper than tuning yours ears and mind to listen, listening to others is about getting out of your own immediate experience, where you extend your mindset and points of view to those around you. So what do I mean? Sometimes listening reaches further than what you can physically hear, it’s about being aware of those around you in different circumstances. For example, if I’m feeling frustrated by someone, that’s generally because I’m busy listening to myself, without taking time to become aware of the other person’s perspective. This has been a big learning curve for me, if we all listened more and had more understanding, then I truly believe conflicts would be a lot lower. This article Gaining Perspective from Someone Else’s Perspective communicates my thoughts on this but much more eloquently.
Listening and making an effort to always understand other’s persctives is fundamental for any form of communication or relationships, but it’s also fundamental in forming a community.
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