There are a bazillion tips and advice on how to become a better listener. I don’t want to delve into every aspect of the topic as that would take an entire encyclopedia in and of itself to write. Today I just wanted to focus on one particular aspect of becoming a better listener. It’s a simple piece of advice that has helped to really listen to those around me. What is this advice? It’s simple, slow down the voice (or image) inside your head.
The average human being can hear 750 words per minute but we can only speak on average 150 words per minute. This gap leads us to fill the empty time with this “voice inside our head” which distracts us from what the individual is saying to us. This is why we start to mentally wonder off, start to criticize/analyze what the other person is saying, or start to think of how we are going to respond before they are even finished with what they are saying.
You don’t need to eliminate the voice, just slow it down.
Being a father of three, I was amazed at how often I thought I was listening to my children but in reality I was merely hearing them. There’s a huge difference in hearing someone and listening to someone. Hearing take virtually no effort at all on an individual’s part to do. I can’t tell you how many times I wish hearing was an active process i.e. when the dogs in my neighbor’s yard are barking at 5 in the morning, I really wish I could just not pay attention to them. 🙂 Listening however takes mental effort on our part.
Take a moment and think about how often your children are asking for something, wanting to say something or are trying to grab your attention (basically all the time). Now think about how often you give them your full *keyword* undivided attention when they speak. You can apply this same concept to those around us i.e. family, spouse, friends etc. Basically for the most part, most of us are bad listeners because we have formed habits that cause us to be so.
Want to be a better listener? Practice and develop better listening habits with your children, family and friends. Listening is a skill and as such, can be developed overtime. We just need to put forth the effort and realize that it is something that can be improved.