By Dr S Chakraborty

We are given two ears and one mouth for a reason. God knew listening is twice as hard as speaking.

Right from birth to death, the first and most used skill is listening but we always take it for granted. We take coaching for speaking, stage mannerism, to be grammatically correct and all, with just one assumption that our audience is absolutely attentive and truly listening us. Is it so? With only 2% of people being taught listening as a skill, it’s too much of an ask with a mobile in hand.

So what exactly is true/emphatic listening?

So as the Chinese symbol suggests, listening not only needs ears but also undivided attention along with connecting with the heart of speaker while making eye contact.

For most people listening means waiting for your turn to speak or preparing for your next question. Due to this 70% of all communication are misunderstood, misinterpreted, distorted or not heard at all.

True listening depends on three skills; attention, attitude and adjustment. It is a active process and one needs to train oneself. Our brain inherently thinks four times faster than we can speak. We speak at 200- 300 words per minute but can think at 1000–1200 words per minute. So it gives us enough free time as a listener, for the mind to wander and go away from the topic.  By default our attention will be hard to focus because of this extra time. We need  to use this time to listen emphatically by analysing the content of talk, feelings of the speaker, looking for non verbal cues to know whether he means what he is saying, refrain ourself from completing the sentence of speaker and finally to summarize or reflect back what he said.

Why listening is important?

It is our primary communication activity. Our listening habits are not the result of training but rather due to the lack of it.  It is the most important skill that an employer searches before hiring and a patient desperately seeks before consulting a doctor.

Why listening is hard?

We are always pre occupied with the past or future, may not like the speaker or his mannerism, our own anxiety\stress before coming to listen  or often having a idea in mind what the person ‘ should do’, makes it hard to listen to that persons point of view.

Finally a good listener tries to understand thoroughly what the speaker is trying to say. In the end he may disagree sharply but before he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is, that he is disagreeing with.