Are You Hard of Hearing?
In my view, one of the highest compliments that someone can receive is being considered a good listener.Unfortunately, we are surrounded by people who are not good listeners.
Listening skills are not inherited. They are developed willfully by individuals who recognize their value and importance. That learning process can be fostered and encouraged by the good example of others: by parents, teachers, close friends or mentors.
Well-developed listening skills become a habit rather than an occasional exercise. They are predicated on a platform of interest in what others are thinking, experiencing, and feeling. If this interest is not present, the process of listening is undermined.
Achieving the discipline of being a good listener is a prerequisite for being an effective leader. Good communication skills are a huge plus for leaders, but well-honed listening skills are even more essential.
All too often we focus on communication skills at the expense of listening skills.
How to explain why sometimes even though we think we are listening, we don’t hear the other person’s message clearly? Sometimes it’s because they did not articulate their message well. Sometimes it’s because we did not listen carefully enough. Often it’s a combination of both. Or maybe we just failed to pick up on non-verbal signals which the other person thought should have been crystal clear to us.
This is a common occurrence in marriages and other long-term close relationships, especially involving persons of different gender. I myself admit to having been guilty on numerous occasions of failing to read my spouse’s mind. I’d like to think I’m getting better, but I also recognize to some extent it may be a male software issue.
When we talk about listening skills, we are usually referring to how well someone listens to other people. There is another important dimension, however, which relates to how well we hear ourselves: the manner, style, tone and content of what we say.
If we enroll in dancing, singing, or music lessons, we don’t question the fact that practice is an essential element of progress, as is feedback from our instructor on how we’re doing, so that we can improve upon our weaknesses.
For most of us, dancing, singing and music skills are far less essential components of a successful career and rewarding relationships than listening skills are. Yet how many of us make a concerted effort to learn how we sound when we communicate, in order to improve our communication skill? Very few indeed.
That process begins with making an effort to listen more carefully to ourselves, and then gather feedback through a variety of channels on how we sound to others.
Are they reacting as we expected? Are we effective in persuading others when we need to be? How accurately are our messages being received? To what degree are we being misunderstood? How often are our comments catalysts for conflict or disagreement? Do others think we’re unreasonably critical?
Fundamental to all of the above questions is: do we care? After all, why should we care how other people hear us? Does it really matter?
It doesn’t matter at all if we’re planning to live the life of a hermit on some distant mountaintop or desert island; but it matters a great deal if we aspire to be leaders, effective team players, or enjoy sustainable friendships.
Our values and priorities either include kindness, caring and responsibility towards other people, living things and our environment, or they don’t. If they don’t, then it matters far less how well we listen, or how other people hear us.
Our personal brand has something very important in common with great corporate brands: trust. Our success in relationships depends on our ability to build trust. If we are not in touch with how we come across to others, we’re not likely to succeed at that .Getting into the habit of self-reflection is half the battle.
Getting started is even easier than going to the gym for a workout.
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