Shut the Gab and Start Listening – The Why and How of being a Good Listener


Have you ever felt like the person you are talking to isn’t listening? They may be maintaining eye contact or nodding their head but are clearly not on the same page. It gets difficult to convey your thoughts and hold a conversation.

Have you ever tried to converse with someone who keeps interjecting with comments that aren’t really in tune with the context of what you are saying? You might want to tell the person to stop it and start listening, but you resist the temptation as you don’t want to come across as rude. Interestingly, this is far too common in everyday interactions. 

But why exactly do people fail to listen, and why is it important to listen? Also, how can you become a better listener? These questions will be answered below, and I hope you are listening this time!  

Why do People Fail to Listen?

Listening is a skill that entails hearing, understanding, responding and enabling the conversation forward. Many people hear what is being said but either do not understand or attempt to understand the narrative. And if one does not understand, one cannot articulate a proper response when needed. There are many reasons why people fail to listen to what is being said to them in person or through other means of communication like a phone or video call. 

Highlighted below are five general reasons why people find it hard to listen.

#1. Distractions: Whenever you are distracted in one way or another, it can be tough to listen. Distractions can come in many forms. It could be external distractions like loud chatter or noise from elsewhere. You could be distracted by a need to meet other time-constrained obligations. Whatever distracts a person, the fact is distraction can indeed prevent someone from listening.

#2. Little or No Interest: If you have little or no interest in what is being discussed, you are more than likely to be ‘lukewarm’ in listening. Public speakers usually start with a hook to pique the interest of their audience. Without curiosity, there will likely be little listening.

#3. A preconceived idea of the subject matter: A person that feels they already have a grasp of the topic at the center of the conversation, discussion, or even argument will more often than not fail to listen properly to what is being said to them. Preconceptions can make someone less attentive to detail. 

#4. Not familiar with subject matter: If you are not familiar with the topic of the discussion, you may find it challenging to generate motivation and interest. Imagine being a lawyer seated at a medical conference; you are more likely to fall asleep than you are to grasp the medical terminologies mentioned by the keynote speakers.

#5. Mental limitations: Mental health related conditions like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) etc. can limit someone’s ability to listen, understand, and respond intelligently to questions relating to what was being said.       

Why is it Essential to Listen?

Now that you know why many people fail to listen, let’s understand why listening is such an important life skill. Here are a few reasons:

#1. Builds trust, fosters empathy and strengthens connection: When you make an effort to listen to someone, they recognize your genuine interest and trust you to respect their thoughts and feelings. When you listen rather than assume, it provides a fresh perspective on other’s life story and encourages empathy. Ultimately, listening deepens your friendships, connections with family especially kids and business relationships.

#2. Proper listening enables you to understand a subject matter fully: The most important reason why you should listen is that it helps you to understand the underlying narrative of what is being said. Continuous learning comes from keeping your ears open to ideas, views and information being shared by your colleagues, family, friends, acquaintances and dare I say your enemies too. Great listeners are also known to be very knowledgeable and informed individuals.

#3. Listening helps you articulate a proper response: You can only respond to questions or have a deeper conversation when you understand what is asked or discussed. Listening lets you communicate the proper response and in an appropriate manner. It is the foundation of every conversation, discussion, argument or lecture.

#4. Listening helps you execute instructions to the “t”: Without listening, you will find it extremely difficult to follow instructions. Proper listening encourages a complete understanding of what is needed and the precise execution of instructions. It’s an essential skill in any team based work environment.

#5. Listening minimizes mistakes: When you listen well, you tend to make less mistakes in your response and in following instructions. Listening goes hand-to-hand with efficiency. The most effective and productive leaders and workers in organizations are often known to be the best listeners.   

How can you Become a Better Listener?

Listening is an art that can be mastered and deployed in every practical situation. But to be able to listen effectively, there are some things you need to do. 

#1. Put yourself in the Moment: While listening to someone, immerse yourself completely in that moment. Clear your thoughts and concentrate fully on what is being discussed, taught, or mentioned.   

#2. Avoid distractions: Switch off your mobile phone if you think it would distract you from listening. Avoid any distractions when conversing, discussing, or even listening to a lecture. 

#3. Do not interject the speaker: Avoid interjecting a speaker. Keep your questions, thoughts or arguments aside till after the speaker has finished speaking.

#4. Seek professional help: If you have ADHD, ADD or any attention disorder, you should seek a professional to help you deal with your mental challenge.

In Conclusion

To be a good listener, you need to show more composure and exercise patience until after a speaker has concluded speaking. Only ask questions after a person has fully expressed their thoughts. Resist the urge to think about your response when the person is still talking. It doesn’t take much to know when to shut the gab and learn to listen with just a little observation and restraint.

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