The test took me down a peg or two on the pole of self-confidence. “I’m a great communicator!” That’s what I said, and what I believed. Until I had an evaluation of my listening skills. Was I ever in for a humbling experience!
It appears I was only absorbing and understanding 43% of what was spoken to me. The amazing fact—that’s still in the high end for average Americans today. According to statistics, the average person only comprehends and retains between 20 to 48% of what is spoken to them. That’s atrocious!
Since practicing a few new active listening skills, my comprehension and recall has improved a whopping 37%!
Hearing without actually listening is pandemic in a world of egomania, self-centeredness and pride. All of these self-defeating attitudes serve as barriers to clear understanding of verbal communication.
My weak area, that was unveiled in the test, is that sometimes while having a discussion, I am mentally preparing my rebuttal as they speak. Perhaps you do the same. That’s one of the reasons I was not absorbing all that was said.
Christ-like humility can be the cure for many misunderstood attempts at communicating. A know-it-all attitude will halt our learning ability. We’ll never know anything more than we do right now. Once I stop learning you can roll out the pine box, because I’m dead!
TIP: Do not formulate your responses while the speaker is still talking. Many times the essence of what the person wants to communicate comes at the end. Defer judgment until the discourse is finished.
Most listening disabilities stem from our attitudes, emotions and/or a lack of focus.
We may be analyzing the speaker while they converse instead of processing the words. Perhaps we assume we know what they are going to say, so we stop listening. Understanding a person’s frame of reference: where they are coming from and what their experiences have been can sharpen our comprehension of a particular person’s words. However, if we are assessing them while they’re speaking we might not be getting the intended message. Self-discipline is a mandatory trait for receiving clear communication.
Another monolithic factor to consider is our focus. Distractions can block the communication of words, feelings and intentions in a plethora of ways. I now consciously practice concentrating all my attention on the speaker. With practice, we can discipline ourselves to tune out side conversations and other distractions most of the time.
We know that eye contact is important and lets the speaker know you are listening. An occasional head nod and “uh huh” can go a long way in reminding you to focus your attention on the one doing the talking, and it shows that you are listening. One adviser recommends silently repeating the words the speaker is saying in your mind.
Asking questions for the purpose of clarification is a tool that, once implemented, you just won’t want to do without. We can tell the speaker in our own words what our understanding is, and ask if that is their intended message. “Do you mean, “such and such”? Or, “What do you mean by that?”
TIP: Ask for clarification often, testing your own understanding of what is being communicated.
Practicing active listening is consciously and purposefully paying close attention, focusing, with a receptive attitude. You don’t have to walk away confused on their meaning. Inquire until the communication is lucid. The more deliberate we are in being an active listener the greater our information gathering skills will be.
Watch the body language of the one doing the talking. It will disclose a great deal of their intent. Facial expressions, hand gestures and body positions are good indicators, and these will enhance our comprehension of the message.
Interrupting the speaker will only waste time and muddy the water in the river of communication. Always allow a speaker to finish each point before rebuttal or asking questions. The golden rule applies well. Treat them as you would like to be treated, with respect. Humility, kindness and respect clear a course for understanding and open exchanges. Treat every person regardless of how educated they may be, as if they have something important to say. Yes there is a limit to this. In which case the discernment that comes from God will inform us that it’s time to shut them down or to just walk away.
Observation by researchers has established that a high level of self-awareness, understanding our own style of communicating will boost our ability for making great impressions upon others. And will aid us in making heart-felt connections.
Good listening skills help us in every aspect of life; our relationships, business deals, on the job and at school. We gain greater perspective. Our intellect is at stake and so is our relationships with others. When we follow Jesus’ example of love and humility in our listening we will find much greater success.