Relearning the (Lost) Art of Listening

My elementary teachers often told us that we have two ears and only one mouth so we could listen twice more than we speak. This is an important reminder in the age of social media and incessant online noise.

If Facebook and Twitter posts are any indication, people chime in and post their comments within minutes, if not seconds, of a photo or status update. What’s even worse is that people drop all filters and say whatever they want to say online!

Have we lost the art of listening?

Debates and discussions online and face to face tend to be noisy and contentious.

What would it look like to relearn and recover the lost art of listening?

Listening builds up relationships.

It shows the other person that you care. You care enough to give them time and attention, both of which now seems in short supply.

Lack of listening weakens relationships.

The converse is also true. The lack of listening leads to a weaker or even conflict-ridden relationships. This leads to misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and outright conflict.

Relearning and Acquiring Listening Skills

Like most skills that are being learned, listening skills can be acquired by doing it well and doing it a lot!

Devoting full attention: hide your smartphones please.

It’s amazing how many people look at Facebook or text or email while talking with a friend. It’s also horrifying how many of us do check our phones while attending a meeting or listening to an important presentation.

And yes, I belong to this crowd. I also have become a bad listener in recent years. I could argue that some meetings are unnecessary. But I committed to be there, I should at the very least listen and contribute as needed.

Refrain from quick retorts

While having a sensitive conversation, it is easy to come up with quick responses to address the arguments of a friend or colleague. But in order to listen, we should avoid quick retorts.

Sometimes, the argument is less important than the act of listening… especially if you are in a position of power and authority.

Granted, the person making an argument may be wrong. But intentional listening and acknowledging their points can help defuse an argument and help both parties understand each other.

Borrow their shoes.

Listening helps us develop empathy. You know, that thing that happens when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes. We may not agree with them. But listening and understanding their lives, experiences, and attitudes, can help us become better human beings.

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