Most people say that listening is one of the most essential skills anyone can have.
However, in today’s world, where people are so focused on themselves and what’s happening in their personal lives, many forget to remember how crucial it is to listen to others.
According to professionals, the following are the reasons why listening is so important.
It is a key to effective communication and influence
Communication depends on having the right communication environment. That environment involves respect and trust.
One of the main reasons people in many situations don’t communicate is that there isn’t the right environment. They feel intimidated somehow and are concerned that they will be mocked, rejected, and disrespected.
This was brought home to me early in my career as a psychologist when I was counseling a couple. The wife complained that her husband never revealed what he was thinking.
Indeed, for the first three sessions, he barely said a word. In the fourth session, he started to disclose some of his thoughts. After that, his wife immediately interjected, “Why on earth do you think that? Where did you get that from?”
The man immediately stood up, looked at me, said, “That’s why I never say anything!” and stomped out of the room. It was an excellent lesson for a young therapist.
Listening is about respect and trust
Listening is about respect and trust. You are allowing the person to talk without fear of censure or disrespect.
That respect and trust on which authentic listening is based build an emotional connection. Now, the person feels and appreciates that respect. A bridge has been made.
Effective communication is about meeting people where they are, not where you think they should be or where you want them to be. And you can’t determine where someone is if you don’t listen to them.
Most people are egocentric in their communication and don’t think about the other person. If you don’t do that, your communication will be ineffective, and any influence you might have disappear.
Listening involves hearing the facts and emotions of the speaker
Listening involves not just hearing the “facts” of the speaker but also the emotions the speaker has when discussing specific points.
This is a clue to what is important to them and should be used to reaffirm that you have heard not just what they are saying but how they are feeling about the points under discussion.
A good communicator can also use what they learn by listening to a speaker to create a better connection. For example, if the speaker reveals he is a football fan, you could use football metaphors or references to the sport to help your ideas resonate more with him.
Women’s Empowerment Coach | Higher Ed Consultant
It is a skill that can be role modeled and learned
As a new mom in a global pandemic, I’ve found exploring the parenting process fascinating, isolating, and exhausting — all at the same time.
Who knew that this little person that was so tiny and helpless would quickly become an individual with strong opinions? I mean, I knew it was coming. I just didn’t realize it would be so soon.
Now that we’re in the toddler stage with my little one, it has been a seemingly endless exercise on what is meant by listening. And I don’t necessarily mean just on her end.
As a mom, I’ve had to learn how to toe the line between being too helicopter-y while giving her space to explore. I’ve witnessed her try things for the first time and — depending on the result — whether or not it was a pleasant or horrible experience.
For my daughter, she’s learning how to push boundaries by not listening and the consequences when that doesn’t end well. She’s sensing different sets of tone when I’m being serious vs. when I’m playing, and how that can even translate into my facial expressions and body language.
As an adult, I took my listening capabilities for granted. As a mother, I see first-hand how this is a skill that can be role modeled and learned. And as a Communication professor and empowerment coach, I see the power of putting these lessons into practice. I’ll expand a bit more below.
Listening allows us to be more thoughtful
In a world where we are constantly inundated with technology and messages, it can be challenging to filter through all the noise and figure out what we should be paying attention to, especially when it comes to what matters.
That is why it is crucial to find time either in the morning or evening to engage in mindfulness techniques such as meditation, journaling, or gratitude practice. By limiting what is coming through around us, we can more actively control the thoughts pouring in.
Now, don’t get me wrong — it can be tough to still the mind. But this act of awareness allows us to be more thoughtful and check ourselves when we engage in disempowering language or negative self-talk.
- How are you speaking to yourself?
- Why do you talk to yourself in this way?
- What can change?
These are all essential considerations, especially since nine times out of ten, we already know what’s best for us — we just need to find the time and space to sit with ourselves to figure it out.
It helps people to engage in communication with other individuals
Things certainly get more complicated when we’re trying to engage in communication with other individuals who may have their own agendas, limiting beliefs, baggage, and ego-driven desires to add to the mix.
However, what is really important to note is just that — we’re all human. What may come out as aggressive or emotional may not have anything to do with you. The best we can do is be present and listen.
This can be hard when we’re already busy crafting our next response. It’s especially difficult when you’ve got an active mind and want to share your thoughts right away.
However, remind yourself to take a breath and listen to the other person. Use techniques like the talkback method (i.e., “So to me it sounds like you’re saying…”) to confirm and relay that you’re listening.
Use body language like mirroring your body to theirs and nodding your head to demonstrate listening. And you can undoubtedly use verbal cues like “yes” and “mm-hmm” to let the other person know you’re listening to them.
President, THGM Writers | Author, “Climb Your Stairway to Heaven: The 9 Habits of Maximum Happiness“
It helps writers not to miss important details
What goes in is what comes out. For a writer like me, that means I can only write as well as I listen. If I miss important details or subtle nuances, my writing will miss the mark.
This is as true when writing an article, a press release, or a speech. To be honest, I prefer input in writing as much as possible because I know my listening skills are not what they should be.
But whether the input comes verbally or in written form, the information comes piecemeal. Sometimes it comes as disjointed facts. Sometimes as emotional reactions.
Writers make the connections to create a narrative that flows naturally
A lot of what a writer does is fill in the gaps and make the connections between facts and emotions to create a narrative that flows naturally for the reader. That means listening not only to what is said but to what is implied.
It means listening to the voices of other people who affected the situation but who will never speak to me directly (deep listening). And it means asking questions to fill in those gaps. You won’t even know what questions to ask without listening well.
I once wrote a book for a Black client whose business was stolen from him by his trade association.
It had worked in cooperation with a mole placed inside his business. He told me the whole affair was racially motivated, as he was the only minority-owned business in that field in the eastern USA.
I had to listen carefully and ask many questions to paint an accurate portrait. It turns out that this was more than systemic racism. It was indeed a trade association actively trying to destroy a member business.
I discovered that there had been another Black-owned business in his trade association, but it had been dismantled under suspicious circumstances a few years earlier.
But the mole, who was the story’s antagonist, was a different kind of racist. He was greedy, self-important, and obviously loose on ethics. However, it was clear that he did not hate Black people or even care one way or other about race.
He was not out to destroy Black-owned businesses. But it was also clear that he placed a lower value on Black people than on White people. What he did to this business for personal greed, he was not likely to have done to a White-owned business.
You can get the correct information by listening well
To understand the nuances to convey them accurately, I had to listen carefully. Fortunately, this client was more articulate than many and was good at providing documents and research, so I was able to get the information by asking the right questions and listening well.
Listening is essential in personal life, too. I am sure that many insensitive words that start conflicts would not have been said if somebody had listened better. Social media is not making us any better listeners – quite the opposite.
We unfollow anybody whose words are challenging to hear. Instead, do the work required to listen and try to understand why their views are different. The so-called “culture war” is really a battle to see who can listen less.
In a way, we are all writers. We write our own story chapter by chapter, day by day. And what we write is based on how well we listen.
Erin Seheult, PhD, MBA
Higher Education Leader | Leadership Blogger, With Leadership
Thanks to our friends at Oxford, we know listening is to hear, pay attention, or give our attention to a sound.
You can listen to the soft chirping of a hummingbird, a muscle car gunning past you on the freeway, or the breathing of a loved one in the bed next to you. We give our attention to those sounds, register them, and usually have a response in thought or action.
Active listening is setting aside self and focusing entirely on the other person
Let’s apply that definition to having a conversation. Listening is an essential part of a conversation. Listening, by definition, is to pay attention to the words coming out of the other person’s mouth, register their meaning in our brain, and respond in thought or action.
In contrast, active listening pays attention with the intent to immerse into what is being said to understand the full context of the conversation truly. In short, active listening is setting aside self and focusing entirely on the other person.
Listening vs. Active listening
Now let’s put some context to simply listening. Imagine you had a rough day. You come home to your roommate or spouse and need to get it off your chest.
So you launch into your day, and when you pause to take a breath, the other person steps in and shares they know how you feel because their day was also rough and proceeds to share about their day.
The likelihood of you feeling listened to is very low. The other person heard your words and understood the meaning, but they weren’t truly listening to you.
In essence, they demonstrated they aren’t interested in your emotions or needs.
Let’s playback that scenario again and insert the art of active listening. You enter the house, and you launch into your day. Your roommate/spouse stops what they are doing and focuses on you, and when you pause for a breath, they ask, “What were your thoughts about that?”
Imagine the conversation continues for an hour. You express your emotions about the day’s activities while your conversation partner is asking questions about you your thoughts and asking for more context about your day.
Just writing that gives me a feeling of fulfillment. The “listening meter” would likely be registering relatively high in this scenario.
What was the difference? Active listening.
The art of active listening is the ability to focus on the other person’s emotions and thoughts, not interrupting, and asking clarifying questions to get the full impact of what is being talked about.
Think of it like gleaning information to create a virtual world. As the other person starts sharing an experience, you put on the proverbial VR headset and start looking around at the situation they are creating.
Ask questions to fill in the blanks so that by the time the conversation is finished, it’s like you have stepped into their world and can more fully sense what is going on.
It is being unselfish in the conversation and creating space for that other person
And don’t worry, active listening doesn’t mean you never get to share about your rough day. After the other person has processed their day, they now feel settled and quite naturally say something along the lines of, “We have been talking about my day for an hour. How was yours?”
They are in a better place to hear your day, and they are more likely to give you the exact active listening support to help you process your day. It’s a win-win!
We create space for others
By practicing the art of active listening at home, at work, and in every facet of our lives, we create space for others. The response to that act is a network of people who become our tribe, our social networks.
We are built for relationships. Active listening ensures relationships deepen and relational satisfaction intensifies for all parties involved.
Show me an active listener, and I’ll show you someone who has a deeply satisfying life.
A successful communication cycle can lead to positive change
There are a couple of critical parts to a successful communication cycle.
One of those parts is listening. Let’s break down the successful communication cycle; it has a Sender (the talker), the sender has a message, and the intended Receiver of the message (the listener).
The objective is the successful exchange of the message – information or ideas.
A successful communication cycle has excellent power. It can lead to positive change for both the sender and the receiver – in-depth understanding and wonderful personal growth.
We also know that a lack of communication or bad communication is the source of many relationships and productivity problems. The sender and the receiver have specific responsibilities within the successful communication cycle.
The receiver’s part in the communication cycle is critical.
The receiver must first hear the message and then understand and appreciate the depth and intention of the message. The more meaningful the message, the more critical this part becomes. The receiver has a great burden to “get” the message.
The receiver performs two parts – there is hearing, and there is listening.
Hearing is the more physical part of the process
Hearing is the more physical part of the process. It is affected by the environment around you – noise and distractions. It drives the quality of the sounds (or written words) entering your head.
Once you hear the message now, you must grasp the meaning. This is the listening part.
What it really means to listen to the message
Here is what it takes to really listen to the message. You need to put aside your own personal agendas, motivations, and biases.
You need to raise your empathy for the sender – get in touch with their feelings, thoughts, and emotions.
For the person with much empathy for another, good communications and conversations come naturally:
- They are great listeners, focused on others’ needs in addition to their own.
- They have concern for another’s well-being.
- They understand that everyone needs to be heard.
Impacts of listening
There are two dilemmas that come with listening:
- There is listening for only what you really want or are willing to hear – you are not getting the entire message and propagating the status quo.
- If you are genuinely listening and hearing what is being said, you may be forced to change your mind/opinion on the subject – create change and better your world.
Good listening is life-changing
Good listening can change your world and the world around you for the better:
- Listening leads to great relationships and marriages.
- You can hear what people really need and want, not just solve their problems.
- You become more connected with people and understand their inner souls – you raise your empathy level.
- Listening creates far better results than what you started with – it’s a collaborative effort, people working together to better each other’s lives.
Licensed Attorney | Toxic Workplace Coach | Founder and CEO, Lynn Catalano Speaks
Listening is essential in building relationships
It is enormously challenging to build relationships without practicing reflective listening.
Listening may be the most essential skill to possess – putting someone else first as it’s not about you. Listen to the other person without trying to respond.
Give affirmations that you understand and get; you hear them! Epictetus, a Greek philosopher, stated, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
It demonstrates the listener’s authenticity and commitment to the conversation
Reflective listening is a communication strategy employing two steps:
- Listen to understand the speaker’s idea.
- The listener then repeats the idea back to the speaker to confirm that the idea has been understood correctly.
This is a method of hearing and comprehending which requires focus, intent, and active participation. This approach demonstrates the listener’s authenticity and commitment to the conversation.
I recently read an assessment with ten questions to determine how well you listen. You received a point for every yes answer and zero for nos. If you achieved a very low score, you are a listening expert.
Questions such as:
- Do you sometimes interrupt others during a conversation?
- Do you sometimes look at your watch or phone when others are talking?
Reading the room
In my own simple terms, being able to read the room is the opposite of being oblivious consciously. I believe that reading the room is equal to having high emotional intelligence.
Okay, what is Emotional Intelligence? It’s “the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions and recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others.”
A large part of emotional intelligence and being able to read the room is the ability to listen.
Reading the room is considered an important concept in Korea. They have a name for it — nunchi. Nunchi is the art of understanding what people are thinking and feeling.
Nunchi concerns the awareness of who is speaking, who is listening, who apologizes, who interrupts, etc. From those observations, one can conclude the relationships and the pecking order of a group.
One needs to process this information quickly and be able to act accordingly.
The outcome of quick nunchi is that the person will be able to read the room and improve their chances of success in any environment, be more likely to fit in, and build relationships and connections faster. Overall, quick nunchi is what we all need for success.
At this point in our society, when there is so much divisiveness, quick nunchi is particularly important as it is essentially the understanding of others. This will help us with relationship building and even perhaps a collective harmony if we all practice it.
Life Coach | Mindset and Leadership Mentor
Improving relationships and health through truly hearing someone
One of the most detrimental parts of relationships is feeling unseen and unheard. Solving that is as easy as listening to one another.
Robust mental health and well-being rely on healthy relationships. Listening is key to avoiding toxicity and feeling free to speak what’s on your mind.
Showing respect for someone can be as simple as listening and holding space for them. The gift of your presence and listening without judgment means you listen to understand the message they’re sharing.
Open communication empowers others to share their truths and helps you understand their experiences, instilling deeper connection and trust.
It allows personal growth and change to strengthen
In addition, listening to one another’s thoughts allows personal growth and change to strengthen rather than pull apart the relationship. Thoughtful conversations enable you to see one another in a new light.
Having someone who will listen can be hard to find. Stories or concerns pent up in the body need to come out and be heard. They can trigger explosive emotions, poor coping skills, or even physical and mental ailments without a compassionate audience.
It improves mental health and overall well-being
When people feel heard, they feel valued and nurtured, which improves mental health and overall well-being. In addition, genuinely listening to another’s thoughts heightens the feeling of acceptance and reduces loneliness.
One thing you can do today to listen with compassion is to breathe deeply and focus on the other person.
Laura Barker, CPCC, ACC
Career Coach, Laura Barker Coaching
Stephen Covey uses a variation of the prayer of St. Francis: “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.” It’s a beautiful way to define effective listening.
Why don’t we listen more?
Listening is important. Yet many of us lead such busy lives that listening often gets relegated to “What are the key points this person is making?”
We listen to reply, not to understand, so we find ourselves in reactive mode instead of responsive mode, which means we reply without fully considering the topic at hand.
We lack full information because we skip over the meaning or intent behind the words and accept them at face value.
It’s an inevitable consequence of the literal, not figurative world we live in today, where nuance gets shunted aside due to the sheer volume of data thrown at us daily.
Listening forms our basis of connection
Listening forms our basis of connection. As social beings, we are wired to connect. Part of our communal malaise in this pandemic is our inability to connect effectively.
We have all the digital tools necessary and seem to communicate prodigiously based on the output produced by social media year over year.
It’s not enough. We are not satisfied. Effective listening requires a connection. We connect by listening to understand instead of listening with half an ear because we’re formulating our reply to what the other has said.
How do I listen more effectively?
Start with the intent to understand what the other is saying. Ask for clarity if you’re confused. There’s no shame in seeking clarity, and it will strengthen the social bonds between you and the person with whom you’re conversing.
Practice focused listening: Pay attention to what is said and implied through words, tone of voice, and body language. Use your five senses. This is fact-based listening.
Try intuitive listening: Seek a gentler way where you respond to the emotion in any given moment, looking for the deeper meaning. This is heart-based listening.
Omar A. Ruiz
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, TalkThinkThrive
It builds trust and respect
Actively listening to others allows them to see you are invested in the conversation, resulting in them respecting you for comprehending and showing interest in their discussion points.
It reduces conflict, especially in relationships
People feel frustrated and annoyed when they are not heard, significantly when they are cut off, ignored, or told that whatever they are saying is not valid. Actively listening allows for perspectives to be shared in a calm space.
It improves intimacy for couples
When couples can talk freely about their desires, passions, and fantasies, they can open up opportunities to enhance their sex life. Listening for couples allows for mutual acts of pleasure when done correctly.
When communication is difficult, it may be wise to consider working with a licensed couples therapist to engage in listening activities to enhance these necessary skills for a healthier relationship.
It decreases miscommunication
When people listen to respond, rather than listen to comprehend, they react in ways of misunderstanding rather than from a place of clarity.
It allows room to learn and grow as people
From friendships to business relationships, listening allows room to learn and grow as people.
When working to understand one’s story, people can build empathy and trust with others, resulting in more resources, opportunities, and connections with others that were previously not made possible.
It enhances language, leadership, productivity skills
Learning new skills takes time, effort, and the ability to comprehend the shared instructions.
Listening is one way that people can learn such skills, and without listening to others who embody such skills will leave someone unable to grow in the areas that will make them more successful in life.
Speaker and Equality Advocate | Author, “Step Up: How to Live with Courage and Become an Everyday Leader“
It is the first step to empathy
Listening is an essential and empowering personal skill for a multitude of reasons. First of all, listening is the first step to empathy. You cannot possibly understand someone else’s human experience if you are unwilling to listen.
Just because we hear someone doesn’t mean we listen because listening is not a passive skill. To be a great listener is a very active practice that requires your full attention and engagement by withholding judgment and asking leading questions.
It is not a time to advise, educate, correct, or explain but rather to intensely absorb what someone else is sharing. You can filter, analyze, categorize or disregard later. But at the moment, you simply take it in.
It represents respect
True listening conveys respect which, when combined with empathy, serves as the foundation for trust and safety in a relationship. When we think someone is listening, we believe our voice matters.
Even if a decision is made that doesn’t reflect our opinion, we at least trust that our perspective was considered. We are much more likely to embrace an undesirable outcome if we believe our voice was at least acknowledged.
It is the best way to learn
Finally, listening is the best way to learn. The moment we think we have all the answers is when we stop growing. Truly listening to others, particularly those with different perspectives and experiences, is the most effective way to broaden our scope of the world around us.
It is not always easy to listen, but it is always worth it.
After you have received the information, you can make whatever assessment you want about it, but be unwilling to listen in the first place because you think there is no enlightenment for you in the experiences of another person? Think of the wonders you will miss.
Founder, Hearing Out Life Drama
It can help us with our personal safety
From when we were little, grown-ups around us warned about hot stoves and cliff edges. We learned that it was important to listen for our personal safety.
This is no less true for adults, whether it is the call of “fore!” on the golf course or “lookout!” in a warehouse as an unbalanced pallet accidentally crashes down from the heights.
Some messages must be heeded immediately to protect us. While this is the most basic, fundamental reason to listen, the skill itself needs to be practiced through all stages of life.
People can build trust through listening
Just like we learned to trust the adults that kept us from tumbling off cliffs when we effectively listen to someone, we build trust with them. It deepens intimacy. It allows for authenticity.
It builds a connection with other people
It is a core human need to be seen, heard, and understood. When a listener offers the gift of being present, the person being listened to stops feeling invisible. There’s a sense of relief and joy that comes from connecting with another.
It reduces stress
Another reason why listening is essential is that it reduces stress. Chronic stress, in particular, has a negative impact on the body, potentially causing hypertension, weight gain, and several other harmful effects.
Our physical health is impacted by listening. It is important to note that venting to a person who isn’t able to listen, however, can increase stress, so be consider who you unload to carefully.
It brings relief
Just as taking a splinter out of your finger brings relief, so can removing a mental splinter. The relief of genuinely being heard can be cathartic. Instead of carrying inside out bodies, it moves out and away so that we can move forward.
It helps people to refocus
When we are upset about something, we frequently go over it repeatedly in our minds. It feels like being stuck in a mental rut, unable to break out of that thinking.
When you tell the issue to a Listener, it can help break that cycle and allow your mind to refocus on what you need and want to think about.
Taryn Watts, PCC
Founder, The Mind Rebel™ Academy
It will undoubtedly change your entire future
Inner wisdom lives within every one of us. It is the part of you that is whole and intact, resourceful and capable, steady and unwavering.
It’s the piece that seems to know something that perhaps your conscious mind does not. Learning how to hear and trust that voice will undoubtedly change your entire future.
At our Academy, we have the honor of teaching world-class coaches how to hold space for another so that their deepest wisdom can emerge in conversation, which is the greatest gift we could give to someone.
And it begins with authentic listening. Parker Palmer once wrote, “Being heard is so close to being loved that the two are almost indistinguishable.” The challenge is that most individuals listen with a filter by default (it’s not our fault, we’re only human after all!).
We hear the words someone is saying, and we’re unconsciously filtering it through our own past experiences. To learn how to listen truly, we have a lot of unlearning to do, which begins with self-awareness and humble examination.
Signs that you are taking someone’s words through your own filtration process may be: Wanting to jump in to fix, save, advise, or provide solutions when they are sharing a problem or challenge with you.
You instantly respond with a story of something similar happening to you
Another sign may be that you immediately respond with a story of something similar happening to you and then share what you did to solve the problem or generate a solution.
Now, it’s important to note that these responses are most likely coming from a deep desire to be helpful to another, and that is a beautiful intention. But when you do this, it takes the spotlight off of them and puts it onto you.
The conversation shifts away from their inner wisdom and onto yours:
- “This is what you should do….”
- “That happened to me once, and here is what I did….”
- “Have you tried.…”
- “You need to….”
- “Don’t worry about that. That happened to me, and I got through it….”
While the above examples are well-intentioned responses, they’re not the most helpful or honoring of another human.
What if you shifted your perspective and decided to believe that the person in front of you as a whole, was capable, resourceful, and had a voice of wisdom within that held their answers and solutions?
What if you believed you could help them discover and amplify that voice simply by genuinely listening to them?
Begin by humbly acknowledging that the person in front of you is as unique as a thumbprint. Perhaps you can relate to what they’re going through, but understand that you have different internal worlds with unique lived experiences, perceptions, histories, and views.
Rather than fixing, advising, or storytelling, let curiosity be your guide and lean into authentic listening.
You can ask powerful questions from this place, reflect on what you’re hearing them say, and trust that just like you. They come equipped with an internal voice of wisdom that has the answers they are looking for.
Lawyer and Mediator | Author, “De-Escalate: How to Calm an Angry Person in 90 Seconds or Less“
The four levels of reflective listening
You repeat back word for word what the other person said. This form of listening is essential when both people need to be on the same page about a recipe, list, task, or procedure. Mirroring should never be used to reflect words, meaning, or emotions.
You summarize the speaker’s words with your own words to show that you understood what the speaker said from the speaker’s frame of reference. The focus is on the words, not the meaning or the emotions.
You search for and focus on what the speaker means to say. You generally reflect the speaker’s meaning by using a metaphor. This is most useful for people who ramble and never seem to get to the point.
You ignore the words, read the speaker’s emotions, and reflect the speaker’s feelings with a “you” statement. This is the most profound form of listening.
Affect labeling creates emotional safety and intimacy, calms angry people almost instantly, and creates trust and rapport between the speaker and the listener.
In the use of “I” and “You” statements, many therapists and psychologists have been mistrained in the use of “I” statements. This comes from a misunderstanding of the work of psychologist Thomas Gordon in the 1960s.
The correct use of an “I” statement is to assert one’s own feelings (e.g., “I am angry.”) The correct use of a “You” statement is to reflect the feelings of the speaker (e.g., “You are angry.”)
Certified Happy For No Reason Trainer, Happiness With Heather
Every single one of us wants nothing more than to be heard
Listening is so important because every single one of us wants nothing more than to be heard, validated, and accepted, though most would never admit this. Through conversation, we develop authentic relationships, not just exist in them.
It is how we truly get to know another individual
It is how we truly get to know another individual, what matters to them, what makes them tick, and what allows us to cultivate a relationship with them in the first place.
If we are not willing to really listen to what someone is trying to express to us, then we cannot expect anyone to ever really listen to us. When we are being tuned out or dismissed, it can feel like we don’t exist and/or hold value to the relationship, a family, or workplace.
And suppose we are not willing to listen to another. In that case, we will never be able to enjoy the connection and ultimate value that is available to us and meant to exist when we take the time to be fully present and listen to what someone is expressing to us without judgment.
Sometimes people require advice, however many other times, they simply need to be heard. It can be very releasing and freeing to merely have someone acknowledge a concern, frustration, or opinion without judgment or the need to offer a means to fix the situation.
Listening allows us to learn that we all share similar concerns
Listening allows us to learn that we all share similar concerns, frustrations, and experiences to varying degrees and that we are all more the same than we are different. Listening also allows us, more than anything, to cultivate trust, friendship, and ultimately — REAL LOVE!
Dr. Brenda Wade
Clinical Psychologist | Relationship Advisor, Online For Love
We learn to understand through listening
Listening is more important than speaking! We learn to understand through listening, connecting, and gathering information about others.
Listening is not just hearing what the person is saying, but a state of intention in which you are digesting and comprehending the meaning behind the words, and as a result, they feel acknowledged and heard.
There is also a level of listening called “listening with the heart,” where we are listening to have empathy, find solutions, and connect.
It shows we are giving thoughtful consideration to what the person is saying
It shows we are giving thoughtful consideration to what the person is saying and opens a doorway into their thoughts so you can learn more about them and what is important to them.
This builds trust and shows respect for the person and the relationship
This builds trust and shows respect for the person and the relationship. So many misunderstandings and conflicts can be avoided by simply practicing active listening. The more deeply we learn to listen, the better our relationships are.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor
It acknowledges the other person(s) point of view and experience
Listening is a form of validation, and it acknowledges the other person(s) point of view and experience. Listening does not mean you have to agree or approve of what the other person is sharing.
It means that you are present and considerate of another person. When you are present and considerate, the relationship within yourself grows, and the relationship with the other person strengthens.
The relationship within yourself grows because you have cultivated the ability to listen to another, which is a direct pathway to learning how to listen to yourself.
Listening does not mean you start a sentence with “For me” or “At least you have….” Listening requires a person to take a step back and consider how another person may be responding or dealing with a situation.
It involves getting out of your own self-interest
Listening is one of the most challenging skills since it involves getting out of your own self-interest. The key to being a good listener is to be attentive with no multi-tasking or feedback unless asked for by the person sharing.
The challenge is if someone is hyperverbal or using another person as a “dumping,” then that can break down the process of attentive listening and requires healthy boundaries and communication.
Life Coach | Speaker | Author, “Circuit Train Your Brain: Daily Habits That Develop Resilience“
We can expand our own worlds
When we take the time to listen to others truly, we can expand our own worlds. Expansion is the nature of the universe. Although there is an ebb and flow to all-natural patterns, the cumulative effect is one of forwarding progression.
Listening generates the same kind of “social physics,” in my opinion.
We are encouraged to explore our inner landscape
When we are around people who listen to us, we are encouraged to explore our inner landscape and develop the vision we find there. By speaking it aloud, we give form and shape to our ideas.
Learning how to truly restrain your urge to interrupt or squelch otherwise or impede communication is central to your growth and evolution as a human being.
The best listening is a dynamic act. It is an exchange of energy between and among people, ideally each of whom brings something to the conversation and each takes away something valuable.
Listening “creates us”
I love the concept that listening “creates us.” Even if we keep a journal or talk aloud to ourselves (on the commute, making the coffee, walking the dog), it is priceless to have interplay with other people who have the abilities to discern, listen and offer feedback.
Neuropsychologist and Owner, The Narcissistic Life
It helps to build up trust between two people
One reason why listening is so important is that it helps to build up trust between two people. If you make an effort to listen to someone, they will be able to tell that you are invested in what they are saying.
This will make them more comfortable sharing information with you, as they can trust you with their thoughts and feelings, knowing that you are actually listening.
Misunderstandings become less likely
Another reason why listening is so essential is that it will reduce the likelihood of a misunderstanding occurring. More often than not, misunderstandings come from poor communication when people are not listening to each other.
When you are only half-listening, you are more likely to misinterpret or mishear what someone is saying to you. This might not always be a big deal, but it can be, especially if your friend tells you they are deathly allergic to something at a dinner party.
Gennady Litvin, Esq.
Attorney, Moshes Law
It helps avoid conflicts and misunderstandings
The importance of listening is difficult to overestimate. It helps avoid conflicts and misunderstandings. It is a helpful tool in eliminating conflicts of different types.
While listening to what the interlocutor is trying to tell us, we can understand his motifs and reasons to behave in this or that way. While understanding his point of view, we can conclude there is no ground for a quarrel. If the matter is closed, we save our time and efforts.
The problem is that people like to talk and do not like to listen. Everyone wants to be listened to, so they interrupt their interlocutor. But without listening, there will be no communication—monologue instead of dialogue.
If two persons are presenting two monologues, it is not a conversation. Listening is essential not only for communication. Through listening attentively, we learn. But it is necessary to learn how to listen.
Many people listen but do not hear. And it is a problem, as due to unattentive listening, a greater percentage of information is missed. There is much useful information that could be used in our favor if only we listened to it!
That is why listening is so critical in our private and professional lives.
Communication and Conflict Management Professional, Conspire Creative
It acknowledges that another person is an entirely different individual
Listening is so important because, as humans, we have a self-centered bias. Attention to listening acknowledges that another person is an entirely different individual with their own perspective and experience.
One of my favorite things about coaching is its perspective that the other person knows best for themselves even if they’re not immediately aware of what they want or what they should do next.
We don’t need to fix them, diagnose them, or give them our first-rate advice! We listen to them, ask questions, reflect and validate what we hear, and in this process, the other person comes to better hear and see themselves.
It’s an attitude and a skill that anyone can adopt and practice for better communication and relationships.
Student Services Advisor, Oxford Learning College
It will enhance your ability to become a better communicator
Listening will ultimately enhance your ability to become a better communicator. Making a conscious effort to hear what others have to say and understand and digest the information given is crucial.
These skills will also make the experience of someone speaking to you much more enjoyable – your own listening impacts everyone you communicate with.
Listening can be transformational for learning
Research has indicated that learners of any age who listen actively are more likely to retain information and less likely to feel unprepared and frustrated in the study environment.
Those who’ve honed their listening skills are also likely to have greater belief in their success. Students who listen well will also find it easier to communicate their ideas as a result of critical thinking.
People will likely carry this into the workplace
Those who establish good listening habits in earlier years will likely carry this into the workplace. They will be better able to process and guidance and instructions given by colleagues.
And they are more likely to develop good working relationships, as co-workers associate listening with respect. This may reduce the risk of workplace conflict and boost the collective sense of value.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between hearing and listening?
Hearing and listening, while often used interchangeably, have distinct meanings. Hearing is a passive, automatic process involving the perception of sound through our ears. It is a physiological function that requires no conscious effort.
Listening, on the other hand, is an active, conscious process that requires mental engagement. When we listen, we not only perceive sound but also interpret, analyze, and respond to it.
This distinction is crucial because it highlights the need to pay attention in order to truly understand and engage with the information being shared.
What is empathic listening?
Empathic listening is a type of active listening in which the listener focuses on understanding and empathizing with the speaker’s emotions, experiences, and perspective.
This kind of listening goes beyond simply hearing the words; it involves being attentive to verbal and non-verbal cues, asking open-ended questions, and genuinely caring about the speaker’s feelings.
Empathic listening helps to create stronger connections, foster trust, and promote open communication between individuals.
Can listening skills be developed over time?
Yes, listening skills can absolutely be developed and improved over time. Like any other skill, it takes practice, patience, and self-awareness to become a better listener.
As you work on refining your listening skills, you will likely notice improvements in your personal and professional relationships, as well as increased comprehension and empathy towards others.
How can I improve my listening skills?
To improve your listening skills, try incorporating these practices:
• Be fully present: Focus your attention on the speaker, and avoid distractions like smartphones or other conversations.
• Maintain eye contact: This demonstrates that you are engaged and paying attention.
• Be patient: Allow the speaker to finish their thoughts without interrupting or finishing their sentences.
• Use non-verbal cues: Nod and smile to show you are engaged and understanding.
• Reflect and paraphrase: Summarize what you’ve heard to ensure you’ve understood the message accurately.
• Ask open-ended questions: Encourage the speaker to provide more information and clarify their thoughts.
• Practice empathy: Put yourself in the speaker’s shoes and try to understand their feelings and perspective.
Is it important to listen to ourselves?
Yes! Listening to ourselves is crucial for self-awareness, personal growth, and emotional well-being.
It helps us recognize our own thoughts, feelings, and internal dialogue, which enables us to make better decisions, manage stress, and maintain healthy relationships.
By becoming more in tune with our inner voice, we can gain valuable insights about our needs, desires, and boundaries.
Is selective listening problematic?
Selective listening can be problematic because it involves only paying attention to certain parts of a conversation while ignoring or dismissing others. This can lead to misunderstandings, missed information, and an overall lack of genuine communication.
It’s essential to be aware of any tendencies towards selective listening and work on being more attentive and engaged during conversations to foster healthy communication and strong relationships.
What are some barriers to effective listening?
Barriers to effective listening can be both internal and external. Some common barriers include:
• Prejudice or preconceived notions: These can prevent us from truly hearing and understanding others’ perspectives.
• Distractions: Noise, technology, or other interruptions can make it challenging to focus on the speaker.
• Emotional reactions: Strong emotions can cloud our judgment and hinder our ability to listen objectively.
• Lack of interest: If we’re not genuinely interested in the topic or the speaker, we’re less likely to listen attentively.
• Fatigue or stress: When we’re tired or overwhelmed, our capacity to concentrate and listen effectively may be reduced.
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