Have you heard of the famous love story - 'Romeo and Juliet' by William Shakespeare?
If your answer is 'No.' Then you probably neglected to listen throughout your High School English classes.
The story of Romeo & Juliet is a classic example of continued miscommunication, much of which can be put down to poor listening. In the climatic and tension filled final scenes Romeo finds his love (Juliet) dead. Romeo cannot bear the thought of living another moment without his love.
Naturally he kills himself. Plot twist! Juliet was not actually dead, she was just in a drug induced coma. Faking her own death to get back at her family for forbidding her love with Romeo. She awakes to find a now very dead Romeo beside her. So obviously... she kills herself.
If you were to look back at the entire story of Romeo and Juliet you would notice multiple examples of miscommunication which ultimately leads to the worst case scenario. They both kill themselves.
At this point you might say - "Hold up bro. This blog is about listening right? So why are we talking about miscommunication?"
Various studies have been conducted on human communication throughout the years. A typical study indicates that we spend 70 - 80 percent of our waking hours in some form of communication. Of that time we spend roughly, 9 percent writing, 16 percent reading, 30 percent speaking & 45 percent listening.
Studies also show that the majority of us are poor & inefficient listeners. Sorry to break it to you ladies, the theme behind Romeo & Juliet is not love. The theme is Sh*t communication leads to sh*t results.
Good News! First of all it is unlikely that your poor listening is going to get you killed (but it might). Secondly - like anything in life - we can learn to become better listeners. In this blog we cover '5 Ways to become a better Listener.'
Are you ready to Listen?
001 - Quiet your own agenda
"OMG I just cannot handle the stress at work anymore! Dave is constantly harassing me in the office but I don't know what to...."
hmm I wonder if I have bacon to go with my eggs tomorrow. Oh shit did I leave the lights on?
"... so yeah! What do you think I should do Jacques?"
Have you ever been listening to a friend, colleague or loved one and found yourself drifting out of the conversation and thinking of your own issues? Do you generally start putting together an answer in your head before the other person has stopped talking?
Hell! You have probably been doing it while reading this blog! I have been doing it while writing this blog! Human beings have an average attention span of 8 seconds but research indicates that our attention span reduces every year. Goldfish now have a better attention span than us!
The internet - specifically social media - and upcoming tech like Virtual Reality (VR) & Audio will only worsen our ability to stay attentive.
Next time you go into a conversation remove any distractions (yes that includes your phone), sit down and focus on everything the person in front of you is saying. The moment you start drifting give yourself an imaginative slap & get your head back in the game.
This will be challenging and you will end up drifting from time to time. Politely ask the person in front of you to repeat themselves. Remember, to give the best answer you will need to hear and understand exactly what a person is telling you.
Quiet your own agenda.
See Also - Am I successful? Better Values/Life Metrics
002 - Aim to learn something
This might bruise your ego!
You. You... are wrong! About pretty much everything. So am I. Everything we are doing in life is in some way wrong. We are all just attempting to be less wrong each day.
Here's a couple crazy example's:
-600 years ago people were convinced the earth was flat. Some people still do... #flatearthers
-In 1999 we all thought our computers would malfunction and our world as we new it would end... umm did it?
So let's use the knowledge of our continued wrongness and segway into our next point. Aim to learn something when you are listening.
Next time you are having a conversation with someone, regardless of the topic or your own prejudgments. Consider that you may actually learn something new. Every single one of us has a unique perspective on the world and the influences that surround us.
Don't let your ego get in the way. Aim to learn something new
003 - Actually wait until a person has finished talking before you respond
I guarantee you have done this before.
You are telling a story and you are super excited to get to the punch line. In chimes Heather halfway through your delivery - 'OMG it's just like that time I was at the bar and like three guys were fighting over my number...'
Your immediate emotional response is probably frustration, resentment and/or anger. Fair enough. Here's the punch line though. 2 hours later someone else is telling you something important and mid sentence you cut them off with - 'Hey what times the game tonight?'
It comes back to our attention spans & our over-powering egos. I won't dive into the ego just yet (another blog topic though.. Let us know if you want it in the comments below). Next time you are having a conversation make an agreement with yourself.
Agree to wait until the other person is finished before you respond. If you fail then admit your failings and apologize to the person you are meant to be listening to. If you are interrupted then speak up and voice your frustrations in a polite manner.
What's the alternative? Repress your frustrations and bitch about it later while someone else is trying to tell you something important? Chances are the person interrupting you has no idea they are even doing it. Let them know.
Actually wait until a person has finished talking before you respond.
004 - Repeat back what you heard
After Victory in Europe the allied forces sought to bring a swift end to WWII demanding the unconditional surrender of the Japanese forces. Japan was silent as they considered their options. After being hounded by the press the Prime Minister finally uttered a single word, 'mokusatsu.'
This was a terrible choice of words and has since been dubbed 'the worlds most tragic translation.' The prime minister meant, 'no comment.' The word was interpreted as “not worthy of comment; held in silent contempt.” The allies took huge offence to this statement.
Over 100,000 people were killed instantly after two deadly bombs were detonated in Japanese cities. Nagasaki & Hiroshima were destroyed & the world saw the devastating power of the atomic bomb.
The moral of the story?
No matter how well we apply our listening skills there will always be unforeseen influences that can alter the desired message. In the above case it was a language barrier. Other influences could be, your previous biases, your emotional state or your beliefs.
The easiest fix is to apply something called active listening. One step in active listening is known as 'reflecting back.' Paraphrase what you assume the other person has said with phrases like, "what I am hearing is..." or "Let me see if I have this correct..."
Simply repeat back what you heard.
005 - Ask more questions
Get comfortable with being wrong and become secure in the knowledge that you may seem stupid. It is important to go into any conversation with the knowledge that you are not going to know a lot of things.
You and your ego will often avoid asking a question for further clarification. After all you are smart so it's better you avoid the question to save your pride right?
'Oh! They might think I am dumb for asking that...'
I have news for you, that mentality does make you dumb. If you don't understand someone the quickest way to 'get their drift,' is to ask more questions. 'What is...' or 'What do you mean by...'
The smarter person is the person who understands that they no very little and is unafraid to clarify what they no little about.
If you want to understand more of what a person is trying to communicate the easiest method is to simply, ask more questions.
This is not an overnight fix. Listening effectively takes work and constant practice. You are still going to suck at listening from time to time, just recognize when you do & remind yourself of how to improve.
Becoming an effective listener will help you in every area of your life. Effective listening will improve your performance at work, make you a more knowledgeable person & it may well fix your relationship issues.
We hope this blogs helps you improve in some small way. If you enjoyed the read please leave a comment below and make sure you subscribe.
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Life is Great. Travel is Better.
Paulo & Jacques