Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Are you listening to me?

Are you listening
I watched an interesting video the other day about “listening.”  Julian Treasure discussed “Five ways to listen better.”  It reminded me how communications has changed substantially through the years. 
  • We went from “word-of-mouth” to newspapers, letters and the phone.
  • We moved from letters to email and now “texting.”
  • We use to go to concerts and listened to the radio. 
  • We then moved on to buying records, tapes, cassettes and CDs.
  • And now we have gone from CDs to downloading our music and music videos to watch on our phones or PCs.
Somewhere in the process of this evolution we have lost some of our ability to just listen.   Some of this loss is caused by advancements in technology (a few are mentioned above).  Ear phones, ear buds, cell phones attached to the ear, you name it; times have changed.  A recent statistic reflects that 16% of all teenagers have a hearing disorder caused by listening to music and their cell phones at higher than normal volume levels.

The second sin

However, I believe an equal share in the decline of effective listening is caused because of multitasking.  How often do we really just sit down and talk without doing something else at the same time.  We know the dangers of texting or even talking on the phone while driving.  A few states are even considering banning texting or talking on a cell while walking or riding a bike on public streets.  Our attention span has been shortened to a point where many of us find it difficult to just perform one task and nothing else.
Try it some time.  Call someone and just talk.  Don’t eat, watch TV, read your emails, go through your bills, work in the garden, drive to the store, shop, or anything else.  JUST SIT AND TALK.

I tried it recently and noticed that within a brief period of time I was doodling … yup, doodling.  I didn’t even know I was doing it.

In the process of learning to multi-task we have lost the ability to focus on what we are doing.  This brings me back to the subject of “effective listening.”  How does one relearn something that was a natural ability for many years.

Ernest Hemingway said it best.  “I like to listen.  I have learned a great deal from listening carefully.  Most people never listen.”

Listening - conversation


In the video I mentioned, Mr. Treasure mentioned a technique for being a more effective listener.  He used the acronym RASA to help us remember the process.   
  • R = Receive
    • Listen actively.  Lean forward.  Be fully engaged in listening to what is being said as well as watching the person’s actions.  Don’t multitask.  Fore example, if eating, put your utensils down.
  • A = Appreciate
    • Show that you are engaged and listening by maintaining eye contact and responding with head nods or brief comments (i.e., yes, I see, interesting, or I understand).
  • S = Summarize
    • When the person has finished, summarize what you heard and what you understand.
  • A = Ask
    • Then ask if you captured the essence of what they were saying.  If not, ask clarifying questions.
Mr. Treasure commented on what happens when someone is fully engaged in the listening process.  A relationship or bond is formed between the speaker and listener.   And, the speaker gains a new level of respect for the person listening.

Another good list of skills to improve your listening habit is shown below.  You will note that many are included in the RASA example above.

Skills for listening better


Do as I say and not as I do

So, these questions have to be asked:
  • How do we expect our children  or spouse to be good listeners when we in fact are not good listeners? 
  • How often do we just sit and listen to our children or spouse without doing anything else at the same time?
  • What message are we sending to our loved ones when we do not effectively listen when they are talking?
Are you listening to me?

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