The Need for Listening: A Comprehensive Guide for the Ideal Listener
“Listening is not understanding the words of the question asked, listening is understanding why the question was asked in the first place–” -Simon Sinek
Listening has become a lost art.
Research on listening indicates that we spend about 80 percent of our waking hours communicating: writing 9 percent, reading 16 percent, speaking 30 percent and 45 to 50 percent of our day engaged in listening, to people, music, TV, radio, etc. About 75 percent of that time we are forgetful, preoccupied or not paying attention. One of the factors influencing this statistic is that the average attention span for an adult in the United States is 22 seconds.
It’s no surprise to note the length of television commercials, usually anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds. This constant change of focus makes it more difficult to listen for any significant length of time. Immediately after we hear someone speak, we remember about half of what they have said. A few hours later we remember only about 10 to 20 percent. Yet, less than 5 percent of us have ever concentrated on developing our skills in listening. When people hear these numbers, they often say “this is so interesting. I know that I spend hours preparing to speak. I don’t think I’ve ever consciously prepared to listen.”
Prepare to listen
I’ve discovered the importance about teaching people how to prepare to listen—to become a listening presence. Many of us have had the experience of preparing to give a speech or make a presentation. There are classes in public speaking available in almost every community. We know where to go to learn how to refine and develop presentation skills.
But for the most part, we never even think about what it might mean to prepare to listen—to become a true listening presence no matter what the situation much less how to go about doing so. Two perspectives on listening stand above the others.
Listening as an art
Listening is more than hearing words and more than an action – it is an art. One of the common themes of art is the sense of being at one with it. Thinking about listening as art changes our perception of what it means to listen Rather than thinking of listening as an act or something we do, we should recognize it as an art, or something that we are—a way of being. We become a listening presence.
Listening as a choice
We choose whether we wish to listen. Most of the time, we are completely unaware that we are making a choice. Learning that we have a choice to listen or not to listen is a very powerful insight. We discover how much better we listen when we know that we have chosen to, and how much less stress we have when we know that we have consciously chosen not to.
FUN FACT: Less than 2% of people have had any formal education in listening.
Yet, people spend around 70-80% of their day engaged in some form of communication, and nearly 50% of their time is devoted to listening.
So what I’m seeing here is that there is a whole lot of empty listening going on. So, what do we do about this? I have been fortunate to begin surrounding myself with individuals who have trained themselves in the art of listening. Together, this is what we have discovered:
THERE IS A GREAT NEED TO BE HEARD. Great Listeners can meet this need.
A GREAT LISTENER LISTENS by Knowing the difference between hearing and listening, Avoiding the paralyzing paradox of listening failure (hearing when you think you’re listening), and Sharing a true intent to respond (which cultivates authentic and enduring relationships).
A GREAT LISTENER will pay close attention to their own well-being by increasing the following in their daily life:
- Cultivating Silence
There is no listening without silence. Listening to the silence, listening beyond words is also called contemplative listening. It’s about taking time to be quiet and simply be. Getting comfortable with silence is a practice that will transform your capacity to listen.
- Desiring to Slow Down our Conversations & Reflect
Reflective listening is listening to yourself – your True Self -getting to know the voice of your soul. Once we learn to know and trust this voice we find ourselves able to recognize when we need to speak and when we need to listen.
- Listening in the Present
Deep listening occurs at the heart level. It is present when we feel most connected to another person or to a group of people. Our hearts expand and our capacity to communicate with those of differing beliefs and customs increases.
I truly feel that LISTENING is the cure for the emotional cancer that is increasingly crippling our society and bringing us to our knees. Today we must rise together and thrive through the power of listening.