16 Listening and understanding. – 4:22

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#16 Listening and understanding. – 04:22

Hearing and listening are two different things. Hearing is a physical act; listening is a mental one. The ears collect sound waves and send them to the brain for interpretation. If you don’t have a hearing problem, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a good listener. One of the biggest complaints many women have about the men in their lives is that they don’t listen. I have not done any formal research on the different listening abilities between men and women, but I believe women are better listeners than men. Children tend to be selective listeners; their attention span is less than 30 seconds. Employees often don’t listen and have their own agendas. Parents don’t listen to their children, they are too busy, distracted or just not interested, and politicians don’t listen.

Why don’t people listen? First. They don’t care about the other person. Second. They are more concerned with their own ideas or thoughts. Third. It takes too much work to listen, so they just fake it. Fourth. They don’t know how to listen. Fifth. They think they are listening. Sixth. They have no interest in the subject being discussed. Seventh. Their ego or the need to manipulate, control or look good gets in the way of their listening. Eighth. The other person’s nonverbal communication style gets in the way. Ninth. They don’t respect, like or trust the other person. 10. They think they know more about the subject than the person doing the talking. 11. They don’t believe the other person. And 12, they are preoccupied with their own concerns, issues, problems or circumstances.

Here are a few simple listening tips to consider. First. Look for the main theme of the other person’s message and don’t get hung up on the trivial words, ideas, or their behaviors. Second. Offer feedback comments to show you are listening, things like I see, uh-huh. Third. Ask clarifying questions to show you are both listening and interested. Fourth. Don’t judge the person. When you judge another person, your judgements are really defining yourself and not the other person. Fifth. Stay focused in the present. Sixth. Use a talking stick.

What is a talking stick, you ask? Well, there are a number of Native American traditions that I have been interested in for several years, one of them is the use of the talking stick. By now, I’m sure many of you are wondering what in the world is a talking stick? I don’t have this time here to go into the origination of the tradition, I only want to illustrate its use. By the way, you can use any symbol for a talking stick. One of the problems in relationships is the issue of communication, specifically people interrupting others while they are talking.

When you interrupt someone, you are saying, “You don’t matter, your ideas are not important. I am not listening to you. I don’t care about what you are saying.” None of these contribute to open, honest communication and relationships. Enter the talking stick. Let’s say two people are having a discussion of some kind, pleasant or otherwise. She begins by sharing her thoughts or ideas and she has the talking stick. He cannot say a word, not a single word until she surrenders the stick to him. He can’t grab it away from her, steal it or ask for it, he can’t do anything.

He waits and listens. When she is finished with her opinion, idea or thought, she then passes the stick to him. The same rules apply for her that were applicable to him. She cannot talk, not a word until he surrenders the stick voluntarily to her. What is the point of the stick anyway? Well, use your imagination for just a minute. What would the use of the stick do to a person’s willingness to listen, to the quality of the communication, the validation of the other person by sending the message that I care about you, what you feel, believe, or think? If you want to improve the quality of your listening, communication, and relationships, I recommend you consider using this wonderful little device.

A talking stick can be a toy, stick from a tree in your yard, one you just made up, even a spoon. Do you have someone in your life that doesn’t listen? If you do, I’ll bet you live with a great deal of frustration. One of the greatest compliments we can pay another human being is to be willing to listen to them, to give them the gift of our time, attention, energy, and interest. Are you a good listener? One way to find out is to observe how often you interrupt others, make assumptions about what they said or when misunderstanding happens after a conversation.