Are you really listening?

By Stephanie Trower. Stephanie, 29, is an arts and humanities student from North Yorkshire, England. Please read her essay and leave your thoughts and comments below.

Communication is a very sensitive and diverse topic as people from all walks of life have different ideas of how to communicate and some of these differences may be due to differences culturally, generationally or intellectually.

Communication can be the first impression that an individual has of you. If you are listening with the intent of replying then you aren’t really listening, but if you are listening and digesting what another person is saying to you, you likely won’t have an instantaneous reply. People seldom take time to really become engrossed in what another person is saying as the lifestyles we live today are so fast paced that our minds simply wander if we have nothing to focus on but the one hundred or so words that someone is speaking at us.

Forging relationships

People’s relationships can either be strengthened or weakened by communication. When we have heated debates with loved ones we do not listen to what is being said for fear that we will forget our own thoughts on the situation, for instance.

Another example of a relationship forged by communication are professional ones…when we are sat in an interview and are vaguely listening but too involved with what we are going to say, we run the risk of not being able to answer a question effectively and appropriately, therefore potentially sabotaging our chances of a good impression.

The key to developing any sort of relationship, professional, personal or otherwise, we must first learn that it is important to listen.

Close relationships sometimes need the reply first…

It is good to see why people might feel the need to think of what they are going to say first. There are times when our friends may need advice, so the brain activates and runs through all possible scenarios of what could possibly help the friend’s situation and the thought processes work faster than the person is speaking. It is sometimes difficult to focus on what they are saying completely when we know they will really need an instant reply from us to know that what they are thinking is right, to know that what they have done is justified, and to know that we understand because we are invested in their situation. If we leave room for a pause it adds mountains’ worth of doubt in their subconscious to cause them to think that maybe they’re wrong, maybe what they seek approval of isn’t ok, maybe we are judging them as they speak. It is sometimes safer to think up a reply because of the way some people think.

We are listening in our own way

As society changes and evolves, so do we and this is one part of that beautiful change. Sometimes yes, we need to really engage in what people are speaking to us about, especially when we are at work, in an interview or in a detrimental situation that requires us to absorb the details of the conversation. However, when it comes to more personal matters we do tend to abandon ship and prep our mouths ready for the next point that needs to be made, next bit of approval to suit the other person’s needs or advice that requires us to think as the other person speaks. While we need to understand implicitly what people are saying when they speak so that they feel valued, we should also allow the listener that space to think of what they are going to say.

A final thought…

I believe Covey is partially right in what he said – most people do have intent to reply first before understanding. Many reasons being due to the fast paced society which most people are accustomed caused by busy jobs, the need to satisfy their need for social media and the struggle to maintain a balanced family/social life; with these variables patience is lacking in most people which in turn requires people to move on quickly when in conversation, it is almost becoming social etiquette for there not to be a silence when in conversation and because the average brain processes 350-500 words per minute whilst the average person speaks between 100-130 words per minute it is not possible for anyone to listen to every single word because the brain works so fast. So, people become a part of the ratio that are suggested to be unable to ‘understand’ because of their instant need to reply. This behaviour while it can be justified with some understanding, can be perceived as rude but as I have discussed is becoming something most people cannot control.

2 comments on “Are you really listening?

  1. Dawn Stubbs on

    Fantastic insight and depth into our own psychology around this subject! Good food for thought.

    Great work Steph. Good Luck with your entry Xx

  2. Haripriya Munipalli on

    I realized that understanding is the ability that reflects our higher state of consciousness. As it is the spiritual responsibility of a human being to raise his/her state of consciousness via the journey of life, we need to create a space, silence in our minds on daily basis. When we practice having space in our minds, we will gradually realize that understanding and perceiving is very important for us to grow up, leave alone the instant reply and understanding reply. If we start growing up, automatically, our urge to give instant replies will stop and we will begin to act optimally in ourselves as well as towards others. Of course, when we started learning cycling, it is obvious that we will fall in some occasions. But, if we are committed, we will rise and get along. So, no matter what might be the current scenario of adjusting with job and social life, we need to calibrate ourselves to grow up, as our higher state of consciousness will extend an eternal help to us (this can be totally understood when we read and analyze Vedas at least to some extent). Good Luck Stephanie, this is just my opinion.


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