Experts claim that the average human has an eight-second attention span and with the onslaught distraction of technology these days that time may even dwindle. “We are living in a time when it’s more challenging to be consistently aware and intentional because so many things are demanding our attention. Our brains haven’t caught up to the technology that’s feeding them,” says Scott Eblin, author of Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. “The impact of this leaves people in a chronic condition of fight or flight.” Leading busy lives accompanied by many distractions make it close to impossible to listen attentively at work or home. Here are 3 ways to help you become a great listener.
Listening is also hard because we’re often consumed with ourselves, says Hal Gregersen, executive director of the MIT Leadership Center. “It’s really hard to walk into a conversation without my agenda being written on my forehead and your agenda written on yours,” he says. “Unfortunately with the hectic, chaotic, complicated pace of work life today, people are even more committed to getting their own agenda accomplished.”
For you to truly listen, you need to shut down your thoughts or agenda. Do not practice what you want to say while the other party is speaking. You need to channel your attention to absorbing everything the speaker is saying. Some find it helpful to take notes as the person is talking. Writing can help us concentrate and give us an outlet for any restless energy.
Listen to learn, not to be kind
Stephanie Vozza, fastcompany.com writer, says in her article that people listen to each other out of generosity, not out of curiosity. “Listening is good, but the intent has to be curiosity, not generosity. True dialogue does not happen when we pretend to listen, and it certainly cannot happen if we are not listening at all,” says Ajit Singh, partner for the early stage venture fund Artiman Ventures and consulting professor in the School of Medicine at Stanford University.
The next time you find yourself nodding politely along during a conversation, remind yourself that you are there to learn so pay attention and focus on the conversation. Asking questions will also help maintain your interest. Who knows? You may surprise yourself at the end of the conversation that you learned new info and enjoyed yourself.
Is this what you mean?
Active listening is one of the oldest tricks in the book. In active listening, you repeat what you just heard to clarify if that’s what the other person is saying. A number of problems interfere with people’s ability to understand accurately what another person is trying to communicate, says Adam Goodman, director of the Center for Leadership at Northwestern University.
“Put simply, there’s more opportunity to misunderstand then there is to actually understand,” Goodman notes. To be a great listener, we cannot merely assume we understand what the other party is trying to convey. So, always check with the other party if what you hear is what they mean. Clarifying will help avoid miscommunication and misunderstanding.
Monica Leong is a storyteller at heart. Graduated with a Journalism and Public Relations degree, she is currently working in corporate communications and also contributes as a freelance writer and editor. Before entering the corporate world, she worked in female lifestyle magazines such as Marie Claire, CLEO, and PEARL as an editor and a features writer. Monica is passionate about writing and working on a short story and flash fiction anthology.