Sadly, but true: we have practically forgotten how to listen to each other, even when it comes to something really important. Thus, the average physician interrupts the patient’s monologue at the 11th second, although on average it takes at least 29 seconds to describe the symptoms.
But the main thing is that we ourselves do not understand how bad things are. For example, 94% of managers who were rated the worst listeners by their employees consider themselves to be good or even excellent in this regard.
Listening doesn’t just mean talking less. You also need to ask relevant questions and respond correctly to the words of the interlocutor. As Karl Czapek wrote, “hearing is more than understanding words.” This means being genuinely interested in what excites and captivates the narrator, rather than immediately assessing his actions or trying to assert himself at his expense.
This is not easy – the temptation is too great, without listening to the interlocutor, immediately express your opinion or propose a solution. This temptation is worth resisting with all your might. Although the patient turns to the doctor precisely for help and solutions, compassion is equally important to him, especially when it comes to mental ailments.
Does it really matter what kind of listener we have?
When we are “properly” listened to, we feel better, and this is confirmed by experiments. Communicating with an empathic, attentive listener who is slow to judge us reduces our anxiety levels and negates the need to be defensive.
When we are not reproached for “contradicting ourselves”, we are more willing to understand ourselves, our attitude to the situation, and freely share our discoveries.
And this happens not only when we talk with someone one-on-one, but also when communicating in groups. When people, sitting in a common circle, take turns speaking, and others listen carefully, the storytellers feel more relaxed and come to deeper and more interesting conclusions – this has been shown by experiments conducted in government agencies, IT companies and in schools.
How to get your listening skill back?
Psychologists recommend practicing on those with whom communication is the most difficult for you, whom you find difficult to understand. You can immediately explain to them everything as it is: that you would like to pump your skill and for this you need the interlocutor to share his thoughts for several minutes in a row, and you would listen in silence.
At first, your task is to cope with the arising impulse to interrupt the interlocutor, to object to him, to explain how things “really” are, to offer a ready-made solution. Just listen and try to look at the situation through his or her eyes.
In the end, as Socrates said, “nature has endowed us with two eyes, two ears, but only one language, so that we look and listen more than we speak.”