Can you hear me now?

The importance of active listening.

By Patrick G Howard

Proverbs 18:13 – Let people finish speaking before you try to answer them. That way you will not embarrass yourself and look foolish.

If you have ever taken a class, or read a book about sales, you know about the importance of listening. Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, many of our favorite quotable people have talked about listening.

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. ~ Stephen R. Covey

The art in conversation lies in listening. ~ Malcom Forbes

• I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So, if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening. ~ Larry King

• Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery. ~ Dr. Joyce Brothers

• There is a difference between truly listening and waiting for your turn to talk. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s true.

Listening is important; so important, in fact that it can be the difference between mediocrity and success in any endeavor. And while we often attribute this wisdom to our contemporaries, the first mention of the benefit of listening comes much earlier. In fact, it comes three millennia earlier.

You see, our focus of the month (Proverbs 18:13) was written in the 10th century BC by King Solomon.

I love the Book of Proverbs. It is filled with wisdom for everyday life. And the good thing is, you don’t even have to be a believer to benefit from its teachings.

Now as usual, there is a fly in the ointment. Listening is much easier said, than done. The good news is that active listening can be learned. With that in mind, let me share my Seven Tips to Better Listening with you. Hopefully, you can pick up one or two that will help you become a better listener.

1. Turn toward the speaker and make eye contact. It is the polite thing to do, and it tells the other person that they have your undivided attention.

2. Pay attention (but don’t stare). It’s uncomfortable when somebody is staring at you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be attentive. Just screen out the distractions, and hear what the other person is saying.

3. Don’t judge. When the speaker says something that you disagree with (and they will), don’t start formulating your response. Just hear what they have to say.

4. Don’t try to complete their sentences. Some people love to drag out their point. Don’t try to speed up the pace by finishing their sentences. It tells the speaker that you are more important, and that you don’t really care what they think. Besides, it’s very rude.

5. Don’t plan your response while the other person is still making their point. Think about it for a moment. How do you know what your response should be, when you don’t even know what you are responding to, yet?

6. Empathize with the speaker. Nothing will help you understand the other person more than putting yourself in their shoes, and feeling what they feel.

7. Give the speaker regular feedback. This can be something as simple as a head nod, or a “hmm…” It shows the speaker that you understand what they are saying.

And now, one BONUS TIP

Listening is more than just hearing what is said; it is also about picking up on what is NOT said. Non-verbal cues will lend context to what the speaker says, and will help you understand what the they intended to say.

I hope you can put these tips to good use. If so, won’t you consider sharing with everybody at our next CBFA meeting?

Until then …