How important is listening as a personal skill? Very!
Updated: Oct 24
All parents understand this on an intuitive level. Parents understand it is important in relationships that work to benefit all involved; and it is important on academic, artistic, interpersonal and business levels if everyone brings their best skills to listen to one another and decode what the substance of the communication is.
A parent with good listening skills imparts the same skill through their behavior to their children.
Ultimately, if we want really good listening, people must feel that their communication is safe. It is quite remarkable the difference between a good leader who listens to her team and one who doesn't. A good leader enables everyone in the team to feel valued, and derives great benefit from the contribution of the team. In any conversation, good listening has the same outcome.
For very effective listening, people should be able to feel they can discuss things which are difficult, complex or emotionally challenging. This is not to say that you will agree with everything that you hear but it is to say that you are able to hear it.
For a number of us it is hard to understand how much meaning and value in communication we filter out simply because we do not want to hear it.
In classroom and social environments people will feel so judged for being inadequate that they simply will not question or discuss a subject which they are trying to engage in and learn.
A good parent, a good teacher, and a good learner will share a similar skill set when it comes to listening skills, and they will encourage their child or student to adopt the same skill.
One of the signals of good listening is to show that you are engaged in the process – simply looking directly at the person who is talking. Easy? And though of course it's certainly not always possible, it often is. Try it 😊
We all know that when we experience good listeners we feel valued, and we feel competent, and strangely we feel (and probably are) more intelligent because there is nothing that is constraining our ability to think.
Good eye contact, removing distractions and signaling that you are engaged in the listening as a very important first step.
Keep in mind that if listening was just about listening than you could ask your husband or your child (or the teacher could ask your child) to listen to a recording. But we know that this does not work (except for really simple things) in terms of a significant outcome.
If you want a listening to be successful you need to recognize that listening is not a matter of receiving sound; it's a matter of processing sound and deriving meaning from that. A significant part of that process can be signaling that you want to know more so there is a comprehensible outcome for you. You will do things like ask the other person to clarify (I didn’t get that…); you will ask the other person if what you are saying is a correct repetition of their ideas (So what you are saying is…); you will also use all sorts of things like good eye contact, reasonable body language (and that can simply be proximity to the person); you can mirror to a degree how they are sitting or standing; you can make gestures that are open so you have a very positive effect on their desire to engage with you; and sound like you empathize with and feel with them in an unfiltered way so they feel if they feel that the listening that takes place is not only effective in terms of communication but it's really effective in terms of affirming relationships.
I am sure you recognize that when you talk with someone either on the phone or face to face that what you are waiting for some degree of response. It would be a strange situation if one person does all the talking and the other person is expected to do all the listening: this is a very unsophisticated approach to communication and learning. Good listeners will ask questions to clarify or extend understanding.
When the person listening (and in a skilled relationship both people are listening) they are responding to ideas, and they are responding to ideas/feelings based on a strong effort to understand those in an unfiltered way and then respond in a way that contributes to that feeling or that understanding.
As a parent you will want a world in which listening takes place and recognize that when children have the capacity to listen like this and give you full attention to signal that they understand, will feel that a lot has been achieved in the communication: both you and the child will feel like it has been valuable listening that brings your relationship closer together.
Similarly in a learning or a contemporary academic or business situation it is very much about listening to the other person in order to find common ground. It is about accepting that the other person has ideas/opinions/beliefs that you can value by listening to them in an intelligent and constructive way.
1. Listening is active
2. Good listeners do not judge the speaker
3. You can signal you are listening
4. Asking targeted questions builds and signals listening
5. Good listening leads to better learning and better relationships