Have you ever been in a conversation with someone only to have their focus constantly shift to their phone, to others, or to what’s going on around them? Have you ever communicated something only to have to repeat yourself a week, a day, or even an hour later? Have you ever found yourself to be continually interrupted in the course of a discussion?

Listening is often said to be the key to effective communication. It doesn’t mean that we can’t communicate without listening – but rather that our communication becomes ineffective. Instead of talking to each other, our communication is reduced to talking at one another.

But what makes listening more effective?

In order to answer that it makes sense first to define listening. Listen, Germanic in origin and derived from the Old English word hlysnan, means to pay attention to, give consideration, or to hear something with thoughtful attention. But in determining what we pay attention to we invariably make assumptions on the perceived value of the individual or on what we believe they can contribute. This is the crucial because, if we assume the individual has nothing important or interesting to share, it’s unlikely that we will pay them much attention. We won’t listen.

Everyone has a unique story, so how do we know that someone doesn’t have something important or interesting to share? What experience, perspective, or knowledge are we missing out on by not listening or paying attention? When we dismiss the potential to connect or to reconnect with someone, even if only for a brief moment, we dismiss the potential – the potential to understand an alternate viewpoint, to amend our own perspective, to learn something new or to enhance our current knowledge, or simply an opportunity to build trust and strengthen a relationship.

What makes listening more effective?

Being present.

Being interested.

Thanks for listening…