Recently I failed my hearing test… OK to be truthful I had just got a little worse at one frequency but for someone whose main job is listening that is a worry! But is hearing and listening the same? NO! There are plenty of people who have perfect hearing but fail at listening! What makes the difference? To listen requires focus and effort, seeking to recognise not just what is said but what is left unsaid, as well as assessing the body language to gain the overall message. The sad thing is that so many people fail in the communication process because they have never realised the value of really listening or developed the skills to really listen.
I could easily give you 10 reasons why you should try harder to listen AND as many helpful hints on how to listen better (both of which I have done in the past) but since surveys are the “in thing” answer the following questions with a “yes”, “no” or “maybe” and see how you score:
- Do I show that I am listening by focussing on the speaker, and refusing to be distracted by other things happening around me? YES NO MAYBE
- Do I not interrupt the speaker to tell them what I think before they really finish? YES NO MAYBE
- Do I seek to understand before seeking to be understood (Covey)? YES NO MAYBE
- Do I not make judgements before I hear the whole story? YES NO MAYBE
- Do I refuse to allow my own emotions to cloud my ability to listen? YES NO MAYBE
- Do I reflect back what I am hearing to make sure that I am getting the right message? YES NO MAYBE
- Do I challenge people I sense incongruence between what they say and the message their body language seems to convey? YES NO MAYBE
- Do I ask open ended questions to clarify when I don’t understand? YES NO MAYBE
- Do I listen for what is not said as well as what is said? YES NO MAYBE
- Do I not allow my own prejudices to get in the way? YES NO MAYBE
To score the above you get a 3 for a yes, a 1 for a no and 2 for a maybe. If you score 30 or more you are not being honest or you are in an advanced state of denial about your listening ability. If you score between 20 and 30 you are a great listener. If you score between 10 and 20 you are probably being honest but you need to do some work on your listening skills. Less than 10, you are not taking this seriously and you need help! No matter what you score if you are game do a reality check – show the results to your partner…
I do not profess to be an expert in the listening department (if in doubt ask my wife) but my job is to listen and help others to listen. Who loses when you fail to listen? Everybody!
“If you don’t care about anyone but yourself, you’re not going to listen to others. But the ironic thing is that when you don’t listen, the damage you do to yourself is ultimately even greater than what you do to other people.” (John Maxwell, Becoming a Person of Influence, p89)
Chaplain Ian S Whitley