There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says Sānsī ér hòu xíng, which literally translates to “three thoughts and after act“. In modern-day English, this can be interpreted as “think thrice before you act”.
Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.
Often, especially when we are upset, or are too big-headed to see we are wrong, humans tend to argue blindly.
Before now, I was very guilty of this.
I remember some days in times past, when I was in college and we were done with classes for the day, it was natural for guys to get involved in some banter. In one way or the other, I always seemed to get embroiled in the storm. Early enough, I did realise that I argued with the intention to reply, rather than sieving through the facts the other party had presented, and try to learn from them.
This made me come across like an angry individual of sorts who loved to get into arguments.
By identifying this problem, I realised that at the end of it all, I was drained mentally and physically and upset, and in some cases I also got the other party upset.
I knew I needed to make a change, and had to refine my actions. By paying attention to the message, I realised that no matter how silly someone might seem, there is usually at least some truth in what is being said, and there are always lessons that can be picked up from any conversation.
A lot of people feel that speaking is an art. Indeed it is, but an often overlooked skill is the art of listening.
Listening can be said to be the art of receiving messages, and interpreting them sufficiently, when having conversations with others.
Effective conversations or arguments entail at least two individuals who listen carefully, setting prejudices aside, relating cordially, and making an effort to understand, without any form of resentment.
Listening is essential to having effective communication because when messages are not fully grasped, it leads to avoidable misunderstandings or confrontations.
Misunderstandings usually lead to back-and-forth, bitterness, and in some cases, physical altercations.
In the business world, listening is a skill that is not taken lightly. It is becoming more common to see organisations training their staff in the art of communicating effectively, because words are powerful, and they can build up or tear down.
Often I come across individuals who confuse what can be termed hearing with listening. It is very possible to hear without actually listening. Many times, when we are not paying attention, this happens; we hear the voice without getting a good grasp of the message, if we do grasp anything at all. Other times, we hear what we want to hear.
Effective understanding is achieved by being totally focused. More often than not, it involves observing the speaker’s facial expressions and gestures.
In some cases however, some individuals are prone to over thinking and hence, jump to incorrect conclusions. Even when conclusions are right, this is a trait that is highly irritating.
Our relationships with everyone – socially and professionally – benefit immensely when we listen effectively.
On the other hand, those in the position of speaking should always look out for opportunities to improve their verbal skills. It does take two to tango, and just as I stated earlier, it takes two to communicate effectively.
People wanting to grow, do that by learning and listening effectively, to a great extent. Mistakes are actually made to be learnt from.
According to this report by CreditDonkey, individuals spend 70-80% of their day engaged in some form of communication. 55% of this is spent listening.
On the average, people speak between 125 and 175 words per minute, and our ears are able to listen to about 450 words per minute!
Listening to actually understand is a skill that is developed over time, and will always set one apart from the crowd. It is never too late to start.
The best entrepreneurs and CEO’s are not just great speakers, but also amazing listeners. To be more efficient and grow as a person, effective listening skills have to be groomed.
There is a saying that the best time to begin was yesterday, and the next best time is the present.
Change is a constant, and in all endeavours in life, we should aspire to grow; listening is not an exception. As a matter of fact, it should be at the top of the queue.
Hoping to improve your listening skills from this moment?
I will definitely drink to that.