The Art of Listening: Gateway to Understanding between People

Has anyone seen parents teaching a toddler how to listen? It seems like the parents and child’s relatives’ focus is on getting them to talk, as quickly as possible. Adults even encourage children to grow up fast. Children are often dressed with “little adult” clothes. Little girls get their fingernails colored. You know the rest.

No wonder we have a listening deficit in all sectors of life. I recently had a conversation with a business person, I started by saying: “I have a business proposal” and proceeded to explain what the idea was about. As I spoke, this person interrupted me at least three times with phrases like: “I don’t need such and such services” or “I have my own strategy” and “you need to talk to my sales person, he’ll take care of your request”. Slightly frustrated I said: “I am not trying to sell you anything at all” this is what I am proposing if you give me opportunity to explain it to you in 30-seconds”. He finally allowed himself to listen and understand what my proposal was about. He then understood the concept and concluded the conversation on a positive note.

On another instance I had been invited to a gathering at an acquaintance home. A couple of days before the event I ran into this person at a parking lot. After greeting each other I informed him that I would nlt be able to attend party, because my mother had been admitted to hospital in Palm Springs, California. My travel plans would preclude me from attending gathering. He immediately asked me “ You’re going to Palm Springs?” and before I could answer he went on to say: “lucky you! That’s a nice place to visit!”. He continued on to relate his experiences visiting the city a couple years back. He never understood my conversation, he was too busy trying to tell me about his nice experiences. I never got to talk about my mother’s sickness. He continued on as if I had never said anything. I’ve always wondered: Did he listen to what I was trying to say to him? I doubt it.

Why do we listen so poorly? Partly because we tend to react to verbal input and automatically assume we have a problem. We also want to make someone else responsible for whatever we think others are responsible. A sensible person decides to listen and understand if indeed he/she is having a problem. This person’s first reaction is to listen, and perhaps a third person involved may point out what the problem is, if any.

Listening involves self-control. Having the self-discipline to control our inclination to talk without first understanding, is an art. Why an art? Because it means figuring out what our reaction may be to what is being said; its controlling our thoughts, keeping them from derailing our listening. It’s being able to pause whatever is on our minds and give undivided attention to what’s being said. It’s pausing the speaker to allow us to ask questions so we can be certain as to what message is being conveyed using words and gestures. It’s about fully understanding the intent, motivations and objectives for the message we are listening to. It’s an art because good listening changes with people, circumstances and modality of speech. An altered state, may require to calmly listen and, if necessary, ask the person to calmly explain the details. It’s not passing judgment about situation.

A local nonprofit is funding a five-months training for community leaders in the Lower Yakima Valley. Their goal is to train participants in rural communities to be able to listen, understand, to build consensus among people. To learn how to build on their assets rather than complaint on what’s missing.

Next time someone is trying to say something to you, tell yourself “ I am going to listen to understand, not to reply”. After a while doing this, you will notice a quantum leap in the way your relationships are becoming less threatening and more effective

Join Facebook Group Rural Communities of the Lower Yakima Valley click on link bellow: