The Lost Art Of Listening

Published: 01st January 2006
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"The Lost Art of Listening."

(c) Camilla Barker 2005

Ever wondered why we use the words, "need a shoulder to cry on" and "I'll be your ears"? These phrases have, over time, lost some of their deeper meaning and become yet more clichés in the English language. Recent psychological studies have proven that either on a conscious or sub-conscious level, we all benefit from listening and being listened to, however strongly we feel about actually doing so.

Every single person in the world is different and so all will have different attitudes and approaches to using the most important sense we have when it come to understanding people. Some people are deemed "good listeners" by friends and family and so have an effect on others that makes them want to 'open up' and share their thoughts and feelings. Contrary to general impression, these listeners can adopt a different personality in which they are emotionally neutral and do not judge people by what they say. It has been proven that the majority of people would consider a "good listener" to be someone who does not show empathy towards the person they are listening to because it shows an ability to understand without having to invade another person's space or thoughts. Often people who go to "good listeners" with their problems do not want empathy as judgement of character and situation usually follows.

Evidently, if there are "good listeners" there must be "bad listeners" too. These are the kind of people who like to think that they are going to help someone out by listening to what they say, but when the time comes, they often 'hear' rather than 'listen'. Although this seems to be the same thing to most people, the difference is quite substantial when it comes to being a "good listener" or a "bad listener". The words, 'to listen' and 'to hear' both come from the Latin word "audio" yet over time have accumulated different meanings when incorporated into the English language, especially modern written and spoken English. 'To hear' means to be aware of noise, whereas 'to listen' denotes that the listener is paying attention to the noise. From these definitions we can see that if you are only aware of what a person is saying, whether you understand the words or not, you are not listening and so cannot be deemed a "good listener".

Listening in the workplace seems like an obvious thing that has to be done but it is not always as prominent in business communication as most business managers would like to think. Communication by listening to colleagues and superiors is generally under-rated as immediate effects are not always achieved. As with most things, listening to someone and sorting out problems, whether they are personal or not often take time:

Juliet, a manager of a small, but expanding business in Norwich, was having problems in recruiting staff for the logistical side of the company. She had placed a few job advertisements in local newspapers but had received no response. Juliet wanted to place an advertisement on the radio but was told by the boss that it would be too expensive and he was adamant that one should not be placed. He would not listen to why she thought this would be better. After a few weeks the business was losing customers and suppliers because of its inability to keep to schedules and deadlines. If Juliet could not solve the problem facing her, she would lose her job. She could not tell her parents or friends about it because she did not want them to think that it was her fault and that she was failing. Juliet went to a trained business advice bureau and as she told the person about her problems with the business and possibility of losing her job, she realised that she needed to make people listen to her in order to recruit people properly. If this business adviser could solve her problem just by listening to her problems, then she could do the same by finding a way to make people listen to her. Juliet could only think about the radio advertisement as a way to solve the problem and she went back to her boss, asking that he could just listen to what she had to say about recruitment and consider her idea, even though he had refused it before. In the end Juliet managed to convince her boss about the radio idea, even if it would cost more money and the response was immediate as people listened to the advert when they were at home or in their cars. A month after employing some more staff, the business was thriving and was gaining more customers and suppliers every week. Juliet was called to the boss's office. The boss only said one thing. "Sorry Juliet; I should have listened in the first place."

The same principle applies to being at home or at school. Listening really is "a lost art" and the effects of actually listening to someone can be very rewarding and character building to both parties.

For more information on being a "good listener" and developing good communications skills within your business then visit:

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