Most people talk but only a few listen. Communication is one of the most sensitive interactions, and has great power to make or break any relationship. It can result in chaos and even affect world peace at large. Interestingly, almost everybody wants to be heard, but nobody wants to listen, and even when they listen, do they really understand? The fact that someone is listening to you doesn’t mean that they understand what you are saying. Most of the time, people focus on what they want to hear, and are in a haste to respond in their own understanding, so yes! I do agree with Stephen R. Covey when he says “most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”.
It is important to know that, not every statement demands response. Some opinions are for informational purposes, and even so, it still demands listening with understanding in the views of the individual. Another essential point to know is that, listening with understanding in the position of the communicator will determine as to it needing a reply or it being an information. So then again, understanding plays a vital role in any form of communication, be it a presentation or dialogue.
To understand someone is not just about giving them ears, it goes far deep to putting yourself in their position at that point in time to feel how they are feeling. I have been a victim of “listen to reply” attitude a number of times and I know many people have been too. “Listen to reply” attitude is when someone listens to you and replies without deep thoughts into what you say.
I was speaking to a friend about how I got my heart broken by a lady I loved so dearly and how much it was affecting me mentally and psychologically. He was listening carefully with a great deal of attention until he magically thought he had grasped my story half way, and started his commentary. “Trust me, I know how you feel. You are hurt and I am so sorry about that, but this happens all the time. You will get over it and she will know how lucky she was to have had you”, he said. After his comment, I continued to tell him about my love story. I told him about how our seeming never ending love finally ended because the lady had to travel abroad to study and stay afterwards, since most of her family relatives were residing there. She told me she may never come back and as much as she loved me, she couldn’t risk the long distance relationship which would never come to reality. After saying this, my friend quickly responded, “oh! I thought she left you for someone or you left her because she cheated”.
I noticed how quickly my friend jumped from hearing to responding without even listening in full nor understanding what I said. His judgmental preconception and hastiness to fill in the spaces in the conversation was evidence that he was just listening to reply and of course, address my situation through his own paradigm. First, he assumed that as far as I’m hurt, it means the lady did something wrong. Then he blamed the lady as a means of giving me comfort and relief.
He didn’t really take time to listen empathically and connect with me in order to know how I truly felt. Neither did he give me room to communicate the full story before jumping to conclusion with response. Honestly, I was drowning emotionally and I felt I needed to talk to someone about it. Unfortunately, he was a wrong choice at that time and I walked off without saying goodbye.
Later in the week, I met a friend who felt and shared in my pain and I took comfort from her concerns. So of course, some people listen to understand you like my second friend did, but most people just listen to reply. Guess what, I have been a culprit to listening to reply than listening to understand a number of times, and I have learnt my lessons pretty well.
Many relationships today are sinking fast before they even begin to sail as a result of “listen to reply” syndrome. Everybody’s opinion is right based on their own understanding and funny enough, nobody wants to be wrong. We end up breaking up and ending a beautiful relationship because of individual perceptions without understanding. Many families face communication barriers because everyone wants to be understood but nobody really cares to truly understand the psychological and emotional position of another. In our homes, most parents think their children do not understand them, especially the choices they make for them. Same way, the children also think their parents do not understand them and their choices. This is because, both parents and children are all talking, expecting the other party to listen and understand them.
Listening to reply does not only create a gap between communication because people feel they are not understood, it breeds insecurity and fear of judgement. Some people feel insecure opening up to people because of how they will see them in the shallow space of their own thoughts and the perception they tend to have about them. Also, many people are natural judges in the courts of their minds and thus, tend to focus on what and how to judge an issue based on their own individual standard codes of ethics, morality and emotions. These attitudes deter people from sharing their problems and opinions with others. This consequently affects nation building at large since great thoughts and ideas are inhibited and buried in the heads of great thinkers, who are unable to withstand the social and emotional pressure.
Inasmuch as we reflect through thoughts before reply, it is not enough to give people the psychological and emotional comfort they seek for during dialogue. We end up thinking for people than thinking like them.
In communication, we need to first listen empathically to see things how the other party sees it in their world. We need to try as much as possible to position ourselves in their situation in order to understand how they feel emotionally without judgement and derive meaning of the situation. It is only then that we can truly connect with them and respond appropriately if the need be.