Selective Listening

Did you hear that? You did…but did you really listen? Everyone, I think, has the ability to block out noise and sounds that surround us on a daily basis. However, that’s just hearing, or in this case, not hearing, but to listen, and listen effectively, you must listen attentively with all of your senses. I’m sure you have been in a situation, most everyone has, where you really didn’t hear what was being said. A classic example is when you meet someone for the first time, that person tells you their name, and then a couple of minutes later you’re asking yourself, “what was their name again?” In another situation perhaps you have gone to a meeting or someone has given you instructions or directions, only to find yourself a few minutes later asking, “I’m sorry, what was it you just said?” What has happened is that you weren’t focus or really paying attention to what was said. It happens to everyone. Most people engage in what I call ‘selective listening’ meaning we only hear what we want to hear. The term, selective listening, actually has two meanings. In one case you only hear enough to acknowledge what is being said but without really paying attention. In another way you attentively listen because you feel the communication is important. That’s the difference; you use your own judgment to determine what is important to you and what is not.

Proper communication is an art. Unfortunately not everyone understands this and as a result the meaning is lost. It is important that you learn how to listen carefully, because even if you are very skilled at listening, the meaning of what is being said can still be lost or misunderstood. If you have been listening carefully, then at least you know you can ask for clarification so that you can understand what is being said. If you listen carefully and practice the art of listening, your communications will become more engaging and effective. Most people don’t carefully listen to what is being said. They think that listening is just a basic sense and they don’t feel it requires any extra attention. In reality hearing is a basic sense and listening is a skill that requires attention and practice. Everyone gets distracted by their own thoughts or external influences to the point where we don’t really listen and consequently the meaning of what is being said is lost or at the very least misunderstood.

If you are not deaf or suffer from other hearing disorders, then you hear everything within ear shot. You may not necessarily pay attention to everything you hear and you only listen to the things you focus on. Careful listening is essential if you are to understand what is being said. The art of communication is to effectively deliver information so that when it is acknowledged by the listener it is clearly understood.

To listen properly and carefully requires discipline. It’s easy to become distracted and daydream or think about other things, for example, “when is this meeting going to be over?” “This is so boring.” “I have other things to do.” When someone is talking to you, you may be thinking about what you are going to say next. When this happens I can assure you that you are not carefully listening. One thing that bothers me the most, and it most definitely tells me that the other person is not listening to what I am saying, is when someone interrupts me or over talks me, especially in mid sentence. When this happens I have trained myself to stop talking and let them go on. Actually this is a very effective reaction, sometimes they realize that it is very rude, and usually will apologize.

The most obvious reason why listening carefully is important is for effective communication. If you don’t actively listen to what is being presented to you, or if you misunderstand the information, then it may cause you to not understand the topic of discussion or the problem at hand. Not fully understanding the information and not carefully listening may lead you to the wrong conclusion or cause you to miss an excellent opportunity.

When you carefully listen to someone, it shows them that you care, and often times you will encourage them to open up and communicate clearly. You will be more effective in helping them with their project or problem with great understanding. Think about it like this, most people spend the majority of their time in some form of communication, and that would include reading, writing, talking, and listening. Now, if half that time is spent listening, and if the information is poorly communicated or not understood because of poor listening skills, then isn’t it any wonder why the meanings in communications are lost?

I’ve read somewhere that we only listen to about half of what is said. That is a large contributing factor when it comes to misunderstood communications. Stop and think about that for a minute. It kind of makes you wonder what you may have missed in the other half of that communication. You know, in some small way, how important it is to carefully listen really doesn’t need to be explained, and yet most people need to be made aware of this. Has anyone ever said this to you, when you have responded to what has been said, and clearly missed the point? I’m betting that they have.  “you don’t get it, do you? That’s not what I’m saying at all!” This reminds me of a line from a movie, “what we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Although there are a number of factors that can prevent you from carefully listening, here are some of the more common ones.

1. Understanding, or more appropriately, not understanding how to carefully listen. If your hearing is normal, you may think that because you can hear that you can also listen. It is easy to forget that careful and effective listening is a skill and it takes dedication and discipline to develop. It can go the other way too. If you are the one doing the talking, it may be difficult to determine if your message is getting through. Of course if someone is daydreaming or playing with the phone, or in some other way pre-occupied, you can bet that your information is not getting through.

2. Resistance happens when someone listening to you begins to concentrate on their own situation. Even though you both may share the same concerns, the person you may be speaking to won’t become engaging, and therefore won’t identify with you or support your conclusions.

3. Everything you hear is subject to interpretation and personal perception. Think about what you have listened to in the past and most likely you’ll find that you know something about the subject matter or you don’t. If you know something about it, it is quite possible that you’ll already have your own perception or interpretation about it. This will certainly influence your opinion or judgment. On the other hand, if you don’t, then you may be reluctant to comment either way.

4. Interest is another factor. I know you probably share the same philosophy as I do when it comes to interest. If I am not interested, I feel I don’t want to waste my time and energy in discussing it. Basically I could care less and don’t want to be bothered with it.

5. Credibility is also a factor. The knowledge and expertise of the person giving the information should always be considered. Here again, it goes back to what I said previously about wasting time and energy on information that may or may not be of good quality.

6. Your ability to carefully listen to someone can be affected by your emotional and physical well being. If you are feeling well and nothing is bothering you from an emotional standpoint, then you will be most effective in providing your undivided attention to the subject at hand. If you are not feeling well physically, or experiencing any kind of emotional upset, then it will be difficult for you to focus on the information and the understanding of communication will suffer.

7. The environment can greatly influence how well the communication is received. The climate, temperature, and weather conditions will play a role in how effectively the information is received. If the information is being presented indoors or if you are making the presentation, external noises and distractions will also affect how well the information is received. Make sure you give strong consideration to the place as well as the time to insure that your presentation is as effective as possible.

In order for you to pay attention to what you are listening to, there are four parts that you need to be aware of, and that have to take place. The first part has to do with respect. It is essential that you have respect for the individual that you are talking to and you must accept what that person is saying whether you agree with it or not. Everyone has the right to express their point of view and you as the listener must respect that. I realize that you have your own opinion and even though it may be different from someone else’s, you still must respect and accept their right to express it without indicating whether you agree with it or not. If you do this at the beginning, it is possible that you will learn more about that individual and present a less offensive interaction.

The second part is about understanding. As an effective listener you must understand what is being said. You may not be able to feel what the speaker is feeling, but you should be able to identify with what the speaker is feeling. In order for this to be an effective listening experience, you must have the same or similar experience as the speaker. It is also true that the speaker must have the ability to effectively communicate his or her feelings to be understood as much as possible.

Although honesty is listed as the third part of effective listening, I personally feel that it should be listed first, as I believe that honor should be place first and foremost in any situation. It is a two way street. The speaker must be open, sincere, and direct in communicating and the listener must be honest in his or her understanding and reactions to what is be communicated.

The fourth part of listening effectively is that the communication must not be delivered in a general way, but with great detail. The speaker must keep this in mind and the listener must be able to understand it. Generalities in communication are not very effective and lead to ambiguity. In order for all communications to be effective and understood details are essential. Details allow the speaker and listener to be more connected and they create empathy.

It has been my experience that everyone could improve their listening skills. It seems that most people are more interested in talking and how much can be said then they are in listening. The interesting thing to me is that you can learn a great deal if you can keep your mouth shut and your ears open. There have been numerous times when I started to explain something only to be interrupted and talked over by someone who thinks they know more.

When learning to improve your listening skills there are some techniques that you can learn to help you along the way. Awareness is a key factor. Noting how someone responds to what is being said, either verbally or nonverbally. Learning more about body language and specific body movements can tell you a great deal about how someone is reacting to what you are saying. Physical and mental attitude are important in effective listening. Sitting up straight and focused on what the speaker is saying and maintaining eye contact show that you are listening attentively and interested in what the speaker is saying. Pay attention to the tone of the speaker’s voice and facial expression which can often give an indication of the true meaning behind the words.

Regardless if you are the speaking or listening, outside influences and distractions will affect the quality of communication. Turn off your cell phone and other devices that could interrupt the flow of communication. Make sure your responses are appropriately effective and not over done because too many responses can also be a distraction. Taking notes, for example in a seminar, can keep you focused on the speaker and shows interest.

If the communication is a two way interaction with both sides speaking and listening, it’s important to concentrate on what the speaker is saying and not what you are thinking about saying when it’s your turn. This may be the most difficult skill to accomplish because we all have internal mind chatter going on and it can be hard to turn it off so we can effectively listen and understand what is being said. Most likely you will need to practice some or all of these skills, but it will be worth it, and you be a more effective communicator, speaker as well as listener.

Thoughtful listening is about how the listener considers what he or she has heard. This is a critical point that will either make or break the understanding of the communication. The four parts in listening attentively will help in formulating thoughtful responses in the listener. The concepts in thoughtful listening require you to listen more than you talk, look for specific details, and try to figure out the true feelings behind what is being said. This will help you gain a more complete understanding of the communication. Another part of thoughtful listening is to confirm and clarify what you have heard. You need to understand the speakers view point and not respond from your own point of view. You also need to respond with care and empathy. Thoughtful listening will give the speaker the opportunity to express their concerns, deep thoughts, and possible fears and give you the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the issue at hand. Thoughtful listening is basically concerned with thoughtful responding in an understanding way and creating an effective communication.

A skilled thoughtful listener must have the ability to respond to negative emotions and confront issues of depression, stress, and sadness and then help in a constructive way. The whole of the communication must be an effort to help the individual assess their issues and look for possible ways to solve them. It is also critical that this be accomplished by not making assumptions and getting to the root of the problem without the listener’s point of view.

Be careful of using the same response too many times because you may come off as unsympathetic. It is a good idea to respond by asking questions. This will also help you as the listener get to the root of the issue. Don’t act like you understand if you really don’t. This is especially true when the issues are quite emotional. Some emotions can cause you to not think clearly as well as thoughtfully. If the emotions seem to confuse the issue at hand then ask for clarification. Asking questions can help you as a listener get back on track.

You may feel very strongly about helping, especially someone you care about, and even though you think you’ve understood every detail of the issue, it is important that you don’t go beyond your abilities. Don’t try too hard to help because sometimes you can actually make the problem worse. There comes a point when professional assistance may be required. On the other hand if you don’t try hard enough you also may be doing more harm than good. It is important to properly assess the emotions involved to have an effective communication. If you are not supportive enough, the individual you are trying to help may not be responsive, and the communication and the results won’t be effective.

Another trap that you as a listener may fall into is becoming too talkative, and then it becomes more about you and not the person you are trying to help. Keep your responses brief, remember, and listen more than talk. Lastly of course pay attention to those nonverbal clues. Often times they can lead you to the real problem. If you are to become a thoughtful listener it is essential that you observe facial expressions, body language, and emotional responses.

If you are interested in improving your listening skills and becoming an attentive listener then you need to understand how listening attentively is different than just listening. Remember, most people only do selective listening meaning they hear what they want to hear. You can learn how to listen attentively, all you have to do is pay attention to what you hear, and practice. Learning how to listen attentively is a useful skill in business and in your personal life. Once you learn how to listen attentively, then you can further develop your skills to become a thoughtful listener. Developing these skills will help you become an effective communicator and you may find that by listening more effectively, with an attentive ear, just how much you have been missing.

To be in compliance with United States Federal Trade Commission Regulations, I must tell you that I, or my publishing company, may receive a commission from the sale of these products or programs. It takes a great deal of time to research, investigate, assemble, and publish, and to be honest, the few dollars  in commissions I, or my company, make in bringing you the best of the best in programs are what keeps my company going.  Allow me to take this time to thank you for reading this article and reviewing the following offers.


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