by Cheryl Pope

Covid. Politics. Zoom meetings. Online learning. What’s for dinner. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Whether it’s a boss, a co-worker, a spouse or a child, these days, it’s easy to want to tune out a lot of what is going on. However, there has never been a more important time to stay tuned in to what others have to say.

Think about this. The average person speaks at a rate of approximately 150 words per minute. However, humans can hear at a rate of almost 1,000 words per minute. That leaves a lot of time to wander off mentally!

Starting with a quick self-evaluation is a good way to determine what to do in order to become a more effective listener. When communicating with others:

  • I often interrupt or try to finish the other person’s sentences.
  • I am often overly parental and answer with advice, even when not requested.
  • I make up my mind before I have all the information.
  • I don’t give any response afterward, even if I say I will.
  • I lose my temper when hearing things I don’t agree with.
  • I try to change the subject to something that relates to my own experiences.
  • I think more about my reply while the other person is speaking than what they are saying.

Checking one or more of these boxes means there is an opportunity to become a better listener. Not speaking and listening are not the same thing. Listening, especially active listening, is a skill that requires work.

In addition to increasing one’s understanding of issues and building positive relations, being a good listener is also a great tool for managing conflict. When people feel like someone is listening, they calm down.

Additionally, when someone sees what it takes for someone else to feel heard, they understand what it takes to be heard themselves.

The Greek Philosopher Diogenes said, “We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.” Not into philosophy? How about the line from Hamilton, “talk less, smile more!” Powerful words that demonstrate listening requires using more than just one’s ears. It also requires using the body, the voice and the mind.