Who’s Left to Listen?

As 2014 gets under way, most of us could benefit by resolving to improve a skill that’s easy to overlook: listening.

It’s not entirely the fault of our ears that our listening skills aren’t what they used to be. The digital revolution that brought us the Internet, smart phones, and social media also created hypercommunication and habitual multitasking. Those conditions made it harder for anyone to listen. Our thoughts are scattered, we race from one message to the next, and digital distractions make it difficult for us to focus on the person right in front of us.

To make the most of our conversations, we need to focus on listening for two important reasons:

Listening matters to us. Intentional listening decisively improves our communication. People tell us all the time about what they want, what they fear, and what’s important to them, but we’re often too busy thinking about what’s in our inbox or who just texted us to absorb much of what they’re saying. The old school behavior of listening will help us become much better communicators and, crucially, will enable us to become far more knowledgeable about the most important people in our lives.

Listening matters to them. The stakes are higher than we think when we don’t listen. Think back to the conversations that have made an enormous difference in your life: the coworker who said just the right thing when you were about to throw in the towel, the relative who pulled you aside to say that she believed in you when you felt like no one was in your corner, and the friend whose concern triggered an epiphany on your part. We seldom see these pivotal conversations coming, and they happen only when someone takes the time to listen and connect.

In the year ahead we can be the coworker who lends an ear, the relative who makes a difference, and the friend who will be there when someone needs us. We simply can’t foresee which of our interactions will be vital to the other party. Real, meaningful conversations are unpredictable. The only sensible course is to stop, listen, and connect to the person in front of us.

Question: Want do you say or do to signal that you’re listening? Please leave a comment below to continue the conversation.

For more conversational improvement ideas, buy a copy of Start Talking, Start Communicating. Autographed copies are available online at Brace Books.

Originally posted on mouthpeaceconsulting.com.

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