Have you ever found yourself yelling, “of course I heard you!” only to ask a second later “what did you say?”
Hearing and listen are not the same thing no matter how much we wish they were. We hear a lot; from specific conversations to stray words in someone else’s conversation across the room, to background noise. We hear far more than we are even aware of at any given moment. At any time our attention can flit from sound to word, to sentence to internal thought and back again. We hear so much and at the same time we listen to so very little.
When is the last time you intentionally and successfully focused only on what one person was saying directly to you without being distracted? That means no texting, no singing along to the radio, and no multitasking of any kind. Few people are that focused on a consistent basis.
What can you do to be more attentive? The answer is simple and at the same time difficult: you have to practice just listening. Here are some suggestions for making sure you are really listening:
Watch the person’s face, particularly their eyes. Practice listening for vocal inflections and name what you are seeing and hearing. Rather then responding, reflect back what you are noticing until you receive confirmation that you have complete understanding of the full content that was shared.
Finally, be gentle with yourself and with others. No one is consistently a good listener. Furthermore, the more emotionally charged a situation is the more challenging good listening becomes. So cut yourself some slack and keep practicing. And don’t expect anyone to be perfect at it all the time.
If you are ready to work with a coach to improve your communication skills send set up a complimentary session with one of our coaches.
Jill Nelson, Founder of INUS Group