Few days after I got a new phone number, calls started pouring in. Unfortunately, they weren’t for me. It turned out that my new phone number had previously belonged to an electronic repair store. “I’m sorry,” I’d say, “But this isn’t the store. You dialed the right number, but now it’s the number of my phone, not the stores’ anymore. Sorry, I don’t have the store’s new line” Most people understood. What I found hilarious were the calls who refused to take no for an answer.
“I want to bring in my laptop for repairs, how much would it cost?…” A lady asked me.”I’m sorry, this isn’t the store, you’ve reached a personal line” I said. “What time would you be open?” She asked.
I saw this quote recently, and it made me think deep and moved to write a post on it.
Why is it that when we think of communication, we usually picture ourselves talking? The answer is fairly clear. We think what we have to say is pretty important, and more important than what others have to tell us. But often, the best thing we can do with our lips is to keep them sealed. Communication is more than just speaking; it’s listening. No matter how good of a speaker you are, communication is not just such a simple thing. It’s also more than just listening but understanding and properly responding to what we’ve heard.
Right communication is a skill that takes time, effort and determination to learn. It also takes humility. I’m not a good listener but with time I’ve been working on it and I’m getting better. I recall someone telling me God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. He wants us to listen twice as much as we talk. And I believe it’s true. Listening is an expression of humility and genuine concern for others. If we want to know and understand people truly, we have to care what they feel and think, not arrogantly assume that we already know.
Do you listen carefully? Or are you simply waiting anxiously for the next time you can start talking? How often do you cut other people off or finish their sentences for them? If you want authentic communication in your relationships, it’s time to be a listener. Being a good listener requires you to take a step back, be quiet and be more passive. When you ask the other person a question, absorb the answer. Not only the words used, but also how they are spoken. Ask follow up questions. Care more about their opinions and ideas than your own.
Often, when you find people who aren’t happy, and you ask them what they want done differently, they’ll tell you they want to be taken more seriously, or you find people saying that’s not how I meant it, or all sorts relating to the misunderstandings that happen during communication.
I’m sure this has happened to you. If you’re listening to someone and you get an idea in your head, you can’t focus anymore cos you want to air that idea out. I want you to pay attention next time you are having a convo and see how much you listen without saying anything and when you get a thought in your head, challenge yourself not to mention it immediately. Try to keep it for as long as you can, and you’ll realize that it’s very very difficult.
So what we can say is that we are hearing, but we are not listening. There’s a big difference. Listening requires focus and some deep attention. It’s not easy and requires practice and you being aware of it. This is important because it’s essential to understand the other person’s beliefs and values for you to be able to respond eventually. Because if you are not really listening, you are not getting the actual meaning of the words people might be using. Listening also gives you the room and space to think. You both need space to think because only then can you understand opinions and feeling of others. Sometimes people who are venting can figure the answer by themselves after airing their thoughts. If they are interrupted at a point, they tend to lose their train of thoughts and as listeners we are doing them a disservice. People need to learn to grow to think and figure out answers for themselves. Also, listening makes you ask better and reasoned questions.
People who are prone to lack listening skill are those who are impatient, those who easily judge; as soon as they hear one word or sentence they want to give their opinion, or someone who doesn’t consider listening as a skill. So the first step is to be aware of it, and then practice the skill of listening. It may take time, but the bottom line is that you are making an effort and are improving.
Communication doesn’t just happen. You have to be intentional about it. It’s something we have to plan for and work out. I believe if you’re a good listener you are not just going to be a better friend, sister, brother, wife, husband, colleague, mom or dad but you will exert more influence on other people. I advise you to take time out this week to observe and practice the skill of listening!