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Why Listening Is the Most Important Communication Skill

When was the last time you had a decent conversation? While some say that communication is “talking to” people, others would argue that a simple change of preposition can mean a world of difference between one-sided ranting and healthy dialogue. Try “talking with.”

Hearing and listening, as is often said, are not the same. A common difference in definition is that the former means your ear takes in the information. Scientifically put, it’s the physical phenomenon of vibrations in the air reaching your eardrums; thus, you hear many things, like the whistle of the breeze, the roaring of engines, or footsteps and claps. Meanwhile, the latter is more than just hearing; you also heed and keep in mind what the other is saying, taking in the details and assessing and analyzing their thoughts. When you get the facts straight, you can answer with and/or add your own insights—and eventually, an exchange of ideas. This, then, is discourse, a conversation.

No matter the setting, be it a business meeting, negotiation, personal relationship, etc., listening precipitates proper understanding. While the act may seem simple, don’t underestimate the power of distractions. It could be the sound of a TV or a radio in the background or the whispering hum of a nearby motorcycle. It could be anything that takes your attention away from the one you’re listening to. Even your own thoughts can be a disturbance.

Communication is not a one-way street; you must do you own part too. Foster better conversations by listening because it…

Communication Skill 101: Encourages Open-Mindedness

Encourages Open-Mindedness

Sure, you’re an individual with your own thoughts, judgments, and biases (which, in perspective, isn’t inherently wrong or bad since it’s human nature). But shutting your mind to your own prejudices is a surefire way to close yourself off from the point and mindset of the person you’re talking with. Worse is that you will only spiral down to the mentality that you have a solution you can’t keep inside and interrupt them so that you could speak. This is a very rude gesture. Avoid it at all costs.

Instead, be openminded and receive with no preconceptions or assumptions. If it helps, try thinking of yourself as a blank slate, and everything you hear and listen to is carved onto you. It’s a different take on empathy, but it helps you be in the speaker’s shoes. It helps you connect and relate. And that’s when the magic begins.

Helps Understand

When you keep an open mind, you learn more about the situation and/or the person you’re talking with. You mentally process the information and analyze the details as they come. You don’t jump to conclusions; rather, you are guided by the information you received as you fit the pieces of the puzzle.

Seek to understand. By listening intently, you open yourself up to see what they see and feel what they feel. It’s more than empathy (but it does play an integral part). It’s also about creating a deeper connection and relationship with the person you’re talking with. Since there are no shortcuts to strengthening bonds, listening to understand is a good place to start.

Communication Skill 101: Allows for Better Responses

Allows for Better Responses

When everything has been said, you take things into consideration, be it the problem and its circumstances or the task at hand and its instructions. Knowing what the other party knows and feels about the whole matter makes responding easier and more natural, especially when it deeply affects them.

Because you listened, you have more insight on the stance of the person you’re talking with. You get to see deep into their minds and their thought processes. Then you come up with your responses and add to—or counter (but not argue about)—what they said.

There’s no more dancing around the issue, no more sugarcoating, and no more stepping on anyone’s toes. Listening makes you completely aware and sensitive of your partner and how they respond back to you, and that level of mindfulness goes a long way.

Deepens Bonds

Humans are social creatures. If you have no one to socialize with, you’ll most likely crave talking to anyone or anything—even a volleyball. People feel joy in being with others. Even the mere presence of someone satisfies the neocortex, the part of the human brain comprised of sections involved in social cognition.

This is the foundation of communication: the need to interact with others, be it casual storytelling, heavy rant sessions, or business meetings. Listening shows you’re not just there to talk and socialize; it gives people the comfort and security that what they say is heard, understood, and taken to mind and heart. That puts them at ease, and the trust slowly builds and/or strengthened. You know more about them, and they get to know more about you.

Of course, you’re not the only one who should listen. Ideally, communication is a two-way street. When you’re the one talking, the other should focus on you and on what you’re saying and vice versa. This is common courtesy. There are more rude gestures than interrupting one when speaking, like imposing your unsolicited solution.

A cornerstone of any great relationship is communication. The better the communication, the more lasting the bond. Don’t waste a good one just because you feel the need to talk over the person you’re speaking with. Instead, let it be a proper conversation. Listen, then talk. Talk, then listen. It’s about the giving and taking.

 

Resources:

Bush, Mirabai. “Why Listening Is the Most Radical Act.” Mindful. January 31, 2017. www.mindful.org/why-listening-is-the-most-radical-act

Feintuch, Stacey. “9 Things All Good Listeners Do During Daily Conversations.” Reader’s Digest. n.d. www.rd.com/advice/relationships/how-to-listen

Foster, Nancy. “Good Communication Starts with Listening.” Mediate.com. n.d. www.mediate.com/articles/foster2.cfm

Hellesvig-Gaskell, Karen. “The Difference Between Hearing & Listening Skills.” Livestrong.com. April 16, 2015. www.livestrong.com/article/83661-difference-between-hearing-listening

Roua, Dragos. “After I Read This, I Started to Speak Less and Listen More…” Lifehack. n.d. www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/6-benefits-speaking-less-and-listening-more.html

Schilling, Diane. “10 Steps to Effective Listening.” Forbes. November 9, 2012. www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2012/11/09/10-steps-to-effective-listening/#12e324f73891

Verstraete, Mary. “What Is the Most Important Communication Skill to Acquire?” Center for Coaching Excellence. n.d. www.centerforcoachingexcellence.com/blog/the-most-important-skill-to-building-trust

Vrticka, Pascal. “Evolution of the ‘Social Brain’ in Humans: What Are the Benefits and Costs of Belonging to a Social Species?” The Huffington Post. November 16, 2013. www.huffingtonpost.com/pascal-vrticka/human-social-development_b_3921942.html

“Listening Skills.” Skills You Need. n.d. www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/listening-skills.html

“The Importance of Listening.” Boundless.com. n.d. www.boundless.com/communications/textbooks/boundless-communications-textbook/learning-to-listen-and-helping-others-do-the-same-5/understanding-listening-29/the-importance-of-listening-132-8285

“The Importance of Listening, and Ways to Improve Your Own Skills.” Udemy Blog. December 13, 2013. blog.udemy.com/importance-of-listening

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