Are You Really Listening? by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

Listening is a critical skill. Many of us think we’re good at listening, but what we are doing when others are talking may not be really listening. In many cases, we’re just waiting for our turn to talk.

You see, often our minds are formulating our response to what’s being said while the other person is still talking. This isn’t really listening, and often our response isn’t based on the entirety of what was said, because it was created before we had all the information.

The next time you’re having an important conversation with someone, do your best to turn off your natural urge to start thinking about what you’re going to say and just listen to what’s being said to you. Then, taking all of what you heard into account, formulate your response.

We often listen only with the intent to respond because we believe we need to have a response at the ready. This isn’t necessarily the case, and you’ll find that people won’t be upset with you if you take a minute to think about what is said before you answer.

The more intense the subject and the more passionate you are about your opinion on the subject, the more likely you are to not really listen to what the other person is saying. (Think about fights with your spouse.) You’re eager to make your own argument. This is when listening only to respond, however, is most dangerous. You may be shutting out the feelings and opinions of someone who is important to you. In your quest to be heard, or to be right, you’re jeopardizing the entire relationship.

So, next time you’re having a conversation with someone, whether it’s business or personal, practice listening just to listen. It isn’t easy at first, especially if you’ve never realized that you listen to respond. Over time, you’ll learn to really hear what is being said and you’ll formulate well thought out responses more frequently. You’ll likely find that you make better decisions, and that your relationships with those you love are better, too. That’s when you can truly say you’re a really good listener.