Sunday, February 8, 2015

Listening Power, part 1

When we consider the act of listening, we think it primarily involves sound and our eardrums. However, true listening engages our minds, our focus and our hearts.

In this day and age of everyone's absorption with social media and smart phones, we sometimes miss the nuances that occur in conversations. It's more than tone of voice, although that is part of it. There's body language and facial expression, the rhythm of speech and level of vocabulary. All of these things require our attention if we are to really listen to the speaker.

As an example, I have a history of misunderstanding and conflict with someone. One day, as I was walking out of one room and heading on to my next appointment, this person said, "I've sent you an email about X." I glanced at the person, responded with "Okay" and continued on. However, it was what I saw when I glanced over that provided insight into this particular communication. When the person spoke, it was with head slightly down and turned away, eyes averted, though the body was still and erect. I was the one in motion. That body language shouted that this was a difficult communication for this person to deliver. I understood far more about X from that than I did from the sent/received email. It's changed not only my view of this person but also the direction of my continued communication.

Although email, texts, Facebook posts, IMs, etc. make communicating quicker, they also provide less information. The wholeness of the message is sometimes missed. I worked for a boss who only skimmed my emails (since I tend to be detailed, thus wordy), occasionally asking questions that were already answered in my missive. I learned to send briefer communiques and release my tendency toward thoroughness.

How has social media, emails, texts, etc. affected your listening? How do you handle the frustration of communication misunderstandings? What do you feel when you read brief comments to complex questions or statements? What does listening mean to you?

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