June 18, 2024

How many times have you heard your children say “You guys never listen to me!” I am sure the statement provokes anger and annoyance. But take time to consider: do you have effective listening skill? Many parents are under the impression that when they hear a message they’re already listening to it. But listening is actually a more complicated process than mere attention.

What is effective listening skill? In a nutshell, effective listening involves suspension of all judgment, biases and stereotypes, in order to appreciate a message in the way the sender wants it to be understood. Hence, listening is all about the speaker, not the listener! It’s giving the person sending the message their moment, putting them in the spotlight, and letting them say all that they want to say.

How would you know if you’re a good listener? Consider the following:

Do you tend to multi-task when listening?

Often we say we are listening, but actually we are busy with other things. Asking our kids how school went, while reading the newspaper is a sign of poor listening skills. Entertaining a client, while wondering what gift to send your boss for his birthday, guarantees ineffective listening. Similarly, attending a seminar-workshop while surfing the net on your mobile, shows lack of effective listening skill.

Second, do you let a speaker finish his or her sharing before coming up with conclusions?

Consciously or unconsciously, we may have the habit of always trying to be right. We may nullify anything we hear then that doesn’t agree with our own point of view, or employ selective listening. Selective listening is when we pick only things that interest us in a sharing, and throw away the rest.

So if you’re prone to interrupting a speaker, whether explicitly or just in your mind, then you may need to improve on your listening skills.

Here is an example:

Person A: I want to request a transfer in room. This one is just so near the construction site; the noise prevents me from getting a good night sleep!

Person B: You know what works in getting a good night sleep? Milk! My mother always makes me drink milk when I have trouble sleeping.

Notice how Person B just heard the word “sleep” and pretty much ignored the rest? This is an example of ineffective listening because the speaker is interested in getting a new room, not tips on how to sleep!

You probably can relate to Person B; we’re prone to injecting irrelevant information in a discussion, simply because it felt, at the moment, like the thing to say. But if we only concentrate on a message, we will develop effective listening skill.

Listening is an art. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not a spontaneous and automatic response, although some personality types are better at listening than others. Instead it involves effort and deliberate focus. But take heart if you think you still have a long way to go when it comes to having effective listening skill. Everyone gets better with practice – and there’s no better time to start than now!