Calum MacRae Dec 27, 2019

I don’t know how many times I have heard and used the saying, ‘You have two ears and one mouth for a reason.’ It implies that you should listen twice as much as you speak. But do we practice this?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:  

Definition of hearing

1a. the process, function, or power of perceiving soundthe special sense by which noises and tones are received as stimuli

Definition of listen

  1. to pay attention to sound
  2. to hear something with thoughtful attentiongive consideration
  3. to be alert to catch an expected sound

Do you hear or do you listen?

For many years, I believed that I was listening but, in reality, I was hearing the noise and waiting for my opportunity to contribute, rather than switching on my brain, listening to what was being said and interpreting the information before giving as considered response. 

Hearing is a physical, unintentional process, whereas listening is the interpretation of what you hear and requires your brain and mental processes to be switched on. While I would like to say that I now do this on every occasion, for me listening effectively is an ever-evolving learning process.

The Listening Process

In most forms of communication, there is a sender and a receiver. Receiving is the hearing component but to effectively listen you need to:

  • analyse what you are hearing
  • evaluate what you are hearing, without pre-conceived ideas
  • give value or importance to what you are hearing
  • ask more questions if you don’t understand

Steven Covey said it best,Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.’

Impact of effective listening on your business

Really listening within your business to all your shareholders - clients, employees, suppliers, etc - will not only allow you to connect with the stakeholders quicker and at a higher level. It will also set you apart from any competitors who simply deal with the transaction, rather than understanding the core reasons behind the discussions.

Many of our clients are amazed at how listening effectively to their employees does not only promote a positive culture but can lead to some wonderful ideas for growth and development. 

‘Empathetic listening is so powerful because it gives you accurate data to work with. Instead of projecting your own autobiography and assuming thoughts, feelings, motives and interpretation, you’re dealing with the reality inside another person’s head and heart. You’re listening to understand.’ – Steven Covey.

So, do you hear or do you listen?

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