Why must we listen?

When you were young do you recall your parents telling you to LISTEN?  Perhaps you remember them saying ‘I know you hear me but are you LISTENING to me?’ At the time did you wonder ‘What is the difference?’ Let me try to explain what the difference is and why it is an important life skill.

Hearing is a physical activity that refers to the vibrations your ear receives then turns into sounds. On the other hand, listening is much more involved and can be a physical AND mental activity.

There are also different types of listening. For example, active listening involves not only the physical activity of listening to what is being said but also in watching the body language of the speaker. Effective listening requires focus, and concentration which requires both physical and mental activity. Both types are extremely important in our daily communications.

By being both an active and effective listener you can help in preventing miscommunication, misunderstandings, establish a connection with the speaker, and also improve the interpretation of what is being said.  I am sure we have all experienced a variation of miscommunication or misunderstanding. What if you had a simple misunderstanding while working on project and someone was hurt? Could a  miscommunication from a co-worker lead to clients losing their investment? Would you lose your job? Unfortunately, all of these things can and have happened.

Here are some ways you can improve your listening skills.

Maintain eye contact. By keeping eye contact with the speaker your mind will wander less and the distraction of those around you can be kept to a minimum.

Remain attentive. Once eye contact is established you can remain attentive and you are likely to absorb and retain more information.

Keep an open mind. Save your questions and judgements for the end of the speech simply because they may be answered at the speech progresses.

Listen to the words the speaker is saying and when you hear them in context and it will help in interpretation and limit misunderstandings.

Don’t interrupt. Of course this goes without saying however we often need reminded.

Employers are providing workshops and seminars to their employees simply because of they want to emphasize the importance of listening. Listening is a skill that is not only required but essential for the workplace, relationships, and everyday communication.  How well do you think you listen?



By Lindsay McIntosh,  Senior at IUPUC



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