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Listening

by Dr. Sidney Langston

He never talks to me,” the wife complains. “She never talks except to complain or nag,” the husband retorts. Or perhaps she talks continuously, and he tunes her out. Either way no one is really listening. Children may never seem to communicate at all except to ask for things. When they do try to talk to their parents, it seems that everything they say is sometimes misunderstood and only causes an argument. Is the problem a lack of caring, or is it that most families simply do not know how to listen to each other? Why is it so difficult to listen?

 

What is Listening?

 

Listening is the most important part of communication. It is also the most neglected! Listening does not appear to need any special talent, but in reality it is an art which is all too often left undeveloped.  Effective listening occurs when the listener discerns and understands the speaker’s meaning. Only then is the goal of communication achieved.

 

Why Listening is Hard

 

No matter how carefully you think you are listening, you only retain a small part of what you hear. The problem is that we think much faster than we talk. The average rate of speech for most Americans is around 125 words per minute. Your brain thinks  about four times faster than that, thus the spoken words come in at what is, by comparison a snail’s pace. Consequently, we can listen and still have spare time for thinking. The use, or misuse of this spare thinking time holds the answer to how well we take in and retain what we hear.

 

To Improve Listening Skills:

 

•Stop talking: You cannot talk and listen at the same time.

 

•Establish eye contact: Keep your eyes on the speaker. This shows that you are genuinely interested in him. It’s really hard to talk to someone hidden behind a newspaper or glued to the TV set.

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