Once, a group of researchers in the department of psychology at the University of Konstanz Germany experimented on a group of people. 12 males and 12 females, a set of 60 pictures, divided into 3 categories, ‘Pleasant, neutral and unpleasant. The experiment was meant to examine the impact of verbal instructions on the physiological and psychological actions of human beings. To sum up, a threat cue was set up, an electric shock. All the categories were to be played on a projector, and before the slideshow, the threat of shock would be told to participants if pleasant pictures show up, then the same for neutral and unpleasant.
The results were surprising, pleasant pictures when shown with a threat of shock were negatively arousing to their brains, they didn’t feel pleasant at all, instead, they seemed disturbing, even though those sets of pictures had erotic visuals as well. When the unpleasant pictures were shown with no threat of shock, they turned out to be not that much of unpleasant to their brain.
This experiment sums up the intensity of the impact of verbal signals on a human being. Sometimes, the good your eyes are watching could feel horrifying when verbal signals are not so appealing.
This is the sensitivity of words and listening ability. That is why lack of communication is always destroying people, and by lack of communication, I mean lack of speech ability, and ability to listen.
Is it important to become an effective listener? And why?
Well, yes! It is obvious. In our regular life, whether you are a working individual or not, the conversation is a part of our daily life. We tend to speak with numerous people throughout the day. From the bartender to service station employee, your kids to grandma, we talk a lot. And during this exercise, not every sentence makes sense to us, and not every word is reachable to the core of our brain. People have their perceptions and viewpoints on things.
John wants to admit his daughter to an all-girls school, while his grandma wants her to attend co-education. Let it sink in, why? he wants her to be safe, she wants her to be confident and brave. Both of them have a valid point. They get into an argument, words splashing with thick saliva, and nobody gets anything.
The daughter has seen this before at her place between her father and mother, she has witnessed these loud shouts and aggressive air in the room in her childhood, and it might be affecting her.
Don’t you think the problem would’ve got solved if both were to sit down and speak elegantly and share their point of view? The massacre wouldn’t have reached into the daughter’s mind and wouldn’t teach her this way of communication.
Becoming a better listener isn’t a choice anymore. Whatever we do, we are teaching our unborn grandchildren! Everything gets duplicated in the world. Becoming a good listener makes you a good speaker and further goes on to serve your personal development.
It relates to small wins. This tiny habit could change the entire person into a well-designed personality. A human brain builds a habit chain, it doesn’t rely on one. Once a habit is replaced, it will change the entire habit chain which consists of numerous wrong personality traits. It is like a lined-up dominos, hit one and watch!
This ability makes you a better speaker as well, gains knowledge, enhances your observation, and teaches you to read other people’s minds and act accordingly. These are just one of the benefits it brings.
Moreover, you throw energy into the people around you. Everyone has some observation power. If you are neglecting somebody’s word or just nodding along just like that, it is observable, the other person could sense it. This affects your image and respect for them, for a valid reason though!
Practical ways to become an effective listener
It is not something you write and act upon, it is something you build in yourself. First of all, you need to accept other people in the world are on their journey facing their respective hurdles.
Secondly, the people around have more to say, could have more experience. And accept the fact that people around could be more knowledgeable, rich, skillful, happy, sad, and upset as well.
What I want you to understand here is, that not everything compliments your status in life by any aspect. You see, I used to be a bad listener, worse I might say! People used to share with me, and I would just nod along, in my mind a loop of judgment, and comedy, and my phone’s battery would be circulating. Whenever a person used to discuss similar interests, I would automatically ignore the words.
I realized this happens because in my eyes there was only me who stands by his grounds having everything and being perfect. That is the belief that was stopping me from caring for other people.
Once I removed this belief, and opened my mind to learn and listen to every person, and made myself believe I am not perfect, things began to change. Accepting to learn and be wrong sometimes is the ability that you need to accomplish first to become a good and effective listener.
- Switch on your seeking mode- The human brain is designed in seeking mode, that is why it was difficult for me to drive a car the first time, but repeating it 2–3 times made it easier until I blindly take it out from a narrow parking lane.
It is because your brain always learns to mature you for practical decisions and growth. We consciously switch off our seeking mode. Whenever it is time to listen to somebody, switch it on and observe and absorb the words.
2. Learn to disagree- Most of the time, when a person is talking fluently, and we don’t understand something, our steering wheel (head) keeps us nodding along, it shouldn’t be like this. Asking things, you don’t get would make you a better listener and analyzer of things. Once you understand better, you will have solutions for the other person or guide him/her with something. Moreover, it shows your importance for the other person’s moment of sharing.
3. Be genuine- If you feel there is something your friend has done wrong to her boyfriend, don’t interrupt her, let her finish, and ask here isn’t it wrong?! See, the point is to stay genuine in the conversations. It shows your disagreement power and how much of a good analyzer you are.
4. Don’t interrupt- The most seen bad habit in people around us. It happens to be normal when a person is talking, you might feel an urge to interrupt and put your point of view in front, or even if you agree with the person’s point, it is an emergency to let him/her know that you agree. No! Interrupting is socially unethical and it clarifies your urge to sell your point without completely understanding another person’s perception about it.
As we discussed earlier, you throw energy and send relevant signals to the other person. Interrupting somebody would represent you as a self-oriented person. It means that you want to win the moment instead of understanding the words and don’t care for the other person.
5. Don’t slap your story- There may be a time when a person is sharing a personal experience regarding a particular matter, and you have gone through the same thing even at a much more serious level.
It is okay to stay silent. Maybe it is not a big deal for you, but it is for the other person. Maybe you are much stronger than the other person, but are you mature enough to not shuffle the situation in your attention by the same event?
Understanding others’ experiences and trying to wear their shoes for a bit would make you a better listener and increase patience in yourself as well. Maintain eye contact and angled body language towards the person, stay still and stop waving your hair frequently. However, sometimes, it is effective to share your personal experience and how you dealt with it, depending on the situation.
6. Firm Q&A- At the end of an intense conversation, ask what is in your mind, even if it's tough and rough, ask it! Most importantly, always ask a person how is she/he feeling? Or how he/she wants to deal with it?
People have always thought of something to deal with their events, but even then, if they are keen to share it with us, that means they expect a better suggestion from us that puts their belief on our ability.
A good listener always ends up in the intense moment with warmth! Warmth considering realistic communication and avoiding false expectations.
These are the barriers that are stopping you to become an effective listener
It's common, not everyone is a good listener, yes there are some sugar cheeks, but not everyone. It is a barrier within ourselves. The world speaks to us but doesn’t respond to it appropriately.
It is our flaw that the ears aren’t connected to the heart, but one is connected to the other and used as an exit for the words. These barriers could stop you from enhancing your capability of understanding, observing, gaining knowledge, and overall personal development.
- Full cup- This term represents both flora and fauna. The one we are talking about represents those people who are actively ready to fire back their answer every while of a minute someone is speaking.
Their cup is full of self-determined perceptions and tied up readymade answers with their necks. That keeps them from understanding the situation of another person and failing to act as effective listeners.
2. Sticking to your story- Every person on earth is fighting a battle. Ask college students about their problems, you’ll get a list. Ask a chartered accountant, he would complain about something going on in his/her life, it goes and on and on.
A human being is born crying, what else do we expect? Always carrying our thoughts would stop us from focusing on the people around us. Your journey is worth it, it needs to be thought upon, however, when you are in a situation where somebody is opening up, you need to listen, forget about yours and fit in the other person’s shoe.
3. Distraction- Our best friend, distraction. Haunting ourselves during exams and work tasks. It also affects our personality and social behavior. Being sensitive to distraction would stop you from becoming a good listener, as it makes it difficult to focus and understand conversations.
A moment when somebody is paying attention to us, we tend to get attracted by any sort of distraction, that truck with a pizza poster just passed by, the red light is too bright for my eyes, meanwhile, the other person is speaking deliberately to us.
4. Judgmental- It also relates to distraction. If you are a judgmental person, there is a chance you find it difficult to observe other person’s perceptions and the intensity of their experience.
While your brain is mostly in judging mode, every sentence is a topic of sharing your judgment about it, and it also leads to a disturbing habit of interrupting.
Or even having an urge to interrupt so you may share what you judged. Nobody needs a judgment, nobody cares, if you can’t be of any help, just leave the place and do not think of becoming an almighty judging leader.
5. Self-oriented enthusiasm- Nobody needs it! People don’t need a motivational speech, and there are times when they don’t need to listen to our fantastic survival stories.
YouTube has enough of them. Certain people have practiced their on-stage speech while having a warm shower, it’s good for self-confidence, but the use of it in an unnecessary situation could make it sound like bird chipping.
If it is required, go for it. But don’t go for it for the sake of it in an unnecessary situation, because then you would be representing your speech on someone else’s stage.
6. Stop comparing- Every person who walks by our path, and we look at them, a subconscious mind of ours begins a comparison, either with ourselves or somebody we know.
However, in a conversation it is even worse, urging to compare the other person’s experience with yourself or somebody else represents your negligence towards the moment.
Importance of effective listening in our workplace
In the workplace, it is essential to have cooperative mindsets and effective communications. Even with your senior, you are not fond of beating him in table tennis. This is the kind of sensitivity a workplace has. Thus, it is not an option, rather it is mandatory to be a better listener. It serves with great benefits as well;
1. Trust building- Being a good listener in the workplace would represent you as a trustworthy person. Because, in the essence of good listening, a person speaks well as well. And combined this act will sum you up in their hearts with a respective trustworthy rank.
2. Relationship building- It helps to boost your relationship with colleagues and seniors. Effective listening is not all about listening silently with popping out eyeballs and faking your focus on their words.
It is about communicating logically during the conversation while giving the other person a chance to speak and focusing on their words as well. It enhances relationships because it's rare out there.
What is rare is attractive lol! But practically it delivers a sense of maturity, honesty, and cooperation in another person’s mind.
3. Efficiency- Your juniors in the workplace might know something better than you, they might have good ideas or plans for your firm’s next year's goal. Giving a chance to speak would increase their confidence, and listening carefully while they speak could enhance efficiency and productivity as well.
Alcoa’s CEO Paul O’Neill switched its fortune upside down with just one single ability, effective communication.
The firm was surviving and going down miserably, the new CEO came with communication skills, and created communicative programs that allowed even the blue-collar workers to communicate with him from any part of the world where Alcoa’s plant was located.
By the passage of just a few times, the culture enhances, productivity got boosted and revenue was doubled.
4. Patience- The process of admitting other perceptions and beliefs tends to increase patience in yourself.
It is a quality of leaders. Being an effective listener would make you a patient person and enhance your acceptance of the other side of stories. It helps build maturity and enhance decision-making ability as well.
5. Better solutions to problems- Somebody sometime saved the world by carefully listening to the person who was about to destroy the world by the atomic bombing.
The power of effective listening couldn’t be described enough. Every organization faces problems on an almost regular basis, and during this time solutions pile up on every table.
Being an effective listener, you would be able to determine a practical solution or even combine some and make an even stronger resolution to the problem. It also eliminates misunderstandings and misconceptions in a firm and saves its culture to resist a lifetime pleasantly.
6. Equity- I prefer equity over equality. Equality is giving each person the same share, there might be a person in the group who didn’t even work hard for it or the reward didn’t mean anything to him/her, and to those who worked hard, it is injustice.
Equity is giving people what they deserve. An organization is thirsty for the leadership of equity, and this only happens when a senior is open to listening carefully having switched on his/her seeking mode.
Earlier we discussed ‘How’s’ of becoming a good listener, it includes being in seeking mode. Following up with it, it allows the leader to carefully do justice to employees and build strong credibility that could be relied upon in the future.
Just by switching on the listening ability, a leader will be able to know the position of employees and thus it will lead to sharing respect, importance, tasks, responsibilities, and encouragement in an equitized manner.
7. Personal growth- By reading above mentioned facts, you might be thinking it is very beneficial for others if I become a good listener. Read these facts again, it is benefitting you.
Your relationships are going to get stronger, you are going to gain respect and represent an appreciable personality. Becoming a better listener lets you grow mentally and spiritually because you are most likely to learn about numerous life experiences, get to know people around you in a deeper state, and understand the relationship and where you stand.
It goes on to enhance your decision-making and understandability of numerous situations. It is like being in seeking mode every time.
I have a few friends with a full cup. They tend to have an answer for a question that hasn’t been completed from another’s tongue yet. That is why their answers don’t mean anything, or the questions never bothered to reach their brains.
Despite being a full cup, some of them keep silent when I bluntly ask them to, however, some of them are keen to be stubborn for just their side of the story, I call them idiots.
If you are willing to become a better listener, make sure you are not facing an idiot, if you are, no technique would work, and you don’t want to be harsh with anyone.
Effective conversation works both ways, even if somebody is a full cup, it’s okay if they are ready to stay silent when you are speaking, go ahead.
Magic treat- Here is a magic technique for you guys that I have used in numerous situations. If you could just switch your mind and try to ask a golden question “Why”, you can instantly pull out the deepest concern of any person regarding any discussion.
It happens to be a dry expression when people share something, their words don’t match their true concern, it is always inside. This tool is also used for extremely successful marketers and corporate leaders during intense dialogue.
It is known as “Question is the Answers”. If you want to perform an x-ray of anyone’s mind and heart within a few minutes, ask ‘Why’ against their statements, or against their questions as well, if not why, then question their questions and answers, it works either way.
Following this technique will not only transform you into a great listener but become a great responder as well.
As said earlier, asking why will allow you to make other people speak deep truth, and you will know exactly what to help them with or to respond with. What happened with John was disturbing and injustice to his moral emotions, but Andrew would’ve known his side of the story if he had just dared to as him “Why, what, how” either one of them, or if not, then any question that allows John to express him.
As discussed earlier, to be a good listener, be a good human. Your eyes are mostly to see others and not yourself because, for yourself, you know better! But your body and mind need to be responsible for the people who have credited their trust and affection to you. Being a good listener will always serve you in the best way possible, it is like a seed being watered, that wouldn’t only grow its branches, but give birth to treats as well.